While closing out a series on spiritual fitness yesterday morning, on the exercises of evangelism & hospitality, Pastor relayed two stories, that upon hearing them, I felt God confirm clearly... there's your #seniorPastorMonday prayer.
Pastor Martin Niemöller, who once had close ties with Hitler, but later led other pastors and religious leaders in a resistance against him shared a great regret. For those who don't recognize the name, Niemöller is known for the following quote:
"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me." - Martin Niemöller
His regret however, he shared after having a dream. Hitler standing before God on judgement day. His response for not accepting Christ as Lord & Savior, "Nobody ever told me." Meanwhile, in real life, Martin Niemöller had once sat with Hitler at a dinner party. He talked about trivial matters, rather than sharing his testimony of what Christ had done in his life and the difference Jesus could make in Hitler.
Switch gears to Gandhi. Known for this quote:
'I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." - Mahatma Gandhi
However, Gandhi was serious about Christ. At least, seriously considering Christ. The quote however, the after effect, of Gandhi visiting a Christian church in the mountains of India. Upon entering the church, a British usher told Gandhi he was not welcome; not being the person of prominence and socioeconomic status that that church catered to during the time of the caste-system structure of India at the time.
How different our world would be...had a pastor witnessed to a political force to be reckoned with.
How different a country 4x the size of the United States would be... had an usher welcomed an unknown visitor to sit and hear.
What greater stories convey and stress the importance for balanced, focused pastors with well-grounded ministry?
What greater stories convey and stress the importance for spiritually healthy, spiritually mature congregations?
Consider the alternatives. The story of the Sunday School teacher who led D.L. Moody to Christ. The salvations that followed, leading up to Billy Graham coming to Christ. And so many, many more. Like Jerry McAuley, a former convict who accepted Christ upon hearing the testimony from a friend. McAuley founded America's first rescue mission, McAuley's Water Street Mission. Today, it's known as New York City Rescue Mission. The great Fanny Crosby helped the people that mission served, in one of Manhattan's worst slums.
What potential is being withheld in kingdom of God because the people of God aren't being like Christ as the world expects?
Pray, this #seniorPastorMonday... God help us, the church, and our Pastors, when we fail to portray Christ accurately and effectively. May God help us to speak the truth of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray we have ears that listen to peoples stories; that like Christ, we would meet their need by knowing what it is and what can be done about it. Whether a Pastor or parishioner, may we not be afraid to share, the story of how Christ has impacted us. May we not be found so busy leading and doing church, that we forget to be the church.
May we remember the advice of Fanny Crosby; that we would keep this in mind at all times:
"You can't save a man by telling him of his sins. He knows them already. Tell him there is pardon and love waiting for him. Win his confidence and make him understand that you believe in him, and never give him up!" - Fanny Crosby
Our annual church business meeting is tonight. I'm trying to think how many churches still have business meetings.
I remember all the work that went into these when I was a kid, with my parents who were active in ministry positions at our church. It's important for any and organizations to evaluate their progress in whatever the have undertaken as their mission and purpose. Effectiveness of programs and personnel, condition of resources, status of finances, the transpiring of situations perhaps unresolved... there is much ground to cover.
Yet, we continually hear of decisions being made... "It's not personal... it's business."
Then there's relationships so strong that different decisions are considered... "The relationship is too great; I can't do that, even if it hurts the business long-term" (not heard nearly as often as the first)
People don't like to consider the church as a business... nor do people like to hear about churches more focused on the organization stuff than the people aspect.
Yet, any healthy organization must continually evaluate it's state of affairs in order to ensure everything is moving in the intended direction. Corporation. Non-profit. Government entity. Church body. The family unit.
It requires a diligent inspection of all the moving parts that collectively define the entity and hard conversations that follow about "what's next".
The church is the family of God, which means, operations within the church are about as personal as the decisions one makes regarding their own family.
It is in fact, business that is personal. No business is more personal that one that deals with matters of eternity, where the health of one's life matters here on earth and matters even more, in light of the life that comes after death.
Souls weigh in the balance. No business is more personal than the kind where lives are at stake..
What a great opportunity, to pray on this #effectiveSunday, for the effective and efficient operations of the body of the Christ. Pray for those churches, struggling, where the outlook of their people, operations and finances are in state of trouble, rather than health. Pray God would sovereignly intervene and bring help, direction and resources to pastors and boards that are stressing over the challenges they face and the decisions that need to be made. Pray for those churches, doing well, that are operation from a state of health; may the continue the good work they have begun. Pray for wisdom as they evaluate what is working, what is not and consider what's next... what God has for them to accomplish as they serve their community. Pray for all churches, to come into greater health as the body of Christ, greater relationship with God. May many lives be changed for eternity; destinies witnessed on earth; plans carried out; purposes fulfilled... all for the glory of God.
We are God's people. About our Father's business. Personal... from the very beginning of time.
God's only desire: Relationship with His kids.
As we thinking yesterday about how we consider our goodness or our spiritual cleanliness, I came to the conclusion that it really is just a matter of degrees.
At least that's how we justify things... words, actions, attitudes, behaviors. It's not as bad as... by comparison, anyway.
The problem with varying degrees, is that the danger associated with them changes as much and as often as the degrees, themselves change.
Sure, there's the obvious, well, it you get too close, then obviously you're in trouble. But prolonged exposure to "it's not that bad" will almost always result in you getting that much closer than you wanted.
It's like the analogy of the frog and the pot of boiling water.
Boil the water or be well on your way and put the frog in, it'll jump out. It's obviously too hot! Danger. Trouble. No question. See ya!
However, fill your pot with water, then add the frog
It'll stay. It might get uncomfortable at times, but not enough to leave. It'll stay. To the death. Not realizing it's done so.
Thus, we need to watch what we justify. Particularly, as the body of Christ relates and connects with a society set on seeking spiritual matters and influences, but not actually seeking the face of God.
Pray, this #communitySaturday, the body of Christ would effectively communicate to the world, that the more relativism that is applied to situations and circumstances, the more we move away from what is true, right and good. Pray the truth of who God is would go forth; that the need for God's plan of redemption and salvation would be recognized. Pray the church, itself, would come into greater alignment with God's Word... that the world would not look to the life of the believer for spiritual guidance, but to God; seeing the believer as evidence of the transforming power of the cross of Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit move on the hearts and lives of humanity; drawing all people unto the One True God.
May each come to know and put to practice, daily, seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
By His grace. For His glory.
Once again, on my way home this afternoon...not even praying, just commenting; God, I don't have anything for #missionsFriday.
Meanwhile, I'm listening to The Daniel Band, one of the premier Christian Rock bands from the 70's and 80's. The song, Fight Back (<<listen on YouTube) comes on shortly after making the aforementioned comment to God.
The chorus states: "Full of pride and self, I realized I needed someone else. Jesus, help me fight back".
Then it hit me.
One never truly understands how much they needed Christ, until after they have accepted Him.
Recognizing one's need for Jesus is a crucial step on the road to salvation; obviously.
But think about every other "need" we have in life. Some truly legit, some a matter of life and death, tons are more like wants, hence my use of quotes in the previous sentence. Needs come and go. You only need more space for a growing family until they are grown to the point that they are out. You only really need new shoes when the previous pair are no longer up to the task. (okay, that's a little too close there....sorry). Latest smart-phone, smart-tv, latest social media outlet, and so it goes.
Most of life's needs, once fulfilled, aren't needs anymore...at least not for a while. How long will it be before I have to buy 3 more pairs of work jeans at once?
Unlike all of these, the more one experiences God, through the love and grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives, the more one realizes two things:
1) How did I ever get this far in life without Christ?
2) I need God more today than I did yesterday.
Christianity is a dynamic relationship, not a static one. A system has to be working in order for create a cold environment or a hot environment. There's an energy; there's something producing change. Lukewarm is standing fixed, letting life do whatever it will while you do nothing and go nowhere.
Now more than ever, people are looking for meaning and purpose. Whatever better place to find it, than from the one who created meaning and purpose for every person, prior to their very birth. And that relationship is possible through the birth, death and resurrection of His only Son.
On this #missionsFriday, pray first and foremost, that the hardest obstacle would be overcome... recognizing one's need for Christ. Pray that while the speaker doesn't have to be eloquent or elaborate, the power of the message of Christ is that it is personal. He is not willing that a single soul should perish. Pray for eyes to be opened to see the truth, ears open to hear it and hearts ready to receive it. Pray that one's relationship with God through Jesus, His Son, would be dynamic. Not just transforming and awe-inspiring, but one of active and energetic faith; discovering the will of God and His plans, perhaps and ways. May we witness first hand, the works of God through sharing of His Story for all of humanity.
For the glory of God. By the grace of God. For the cause of Jesus Christ.
A sometimes necessary evil, to be overloaded. It happens. Sometimes you just have to make it work.
However, it can be unwise. It can be unsafe. It can be risky, for any number of potential outcomes as you venture forward.
The more risk you consider taking on, the more precautions you should take as you prepare to go forth.
Sometimes, being overloaded isn't necessarily our choice to begin with, but it's what has been planned and sometimes you simply have to make do and do your best; figure out a game-plan and make it work.
Take many a deep breath.
Pray God's help in figuring out what to do
Pray God's favor as you move forward, should you not have many options
As much as it depends on you, figure out how to keep the frequency of being overloaded to a minimum.
While people may give us more than we feel we can handle or take on, God does not. Since He is sovereign and we are (nor our those around us) there is direction; a way through every situation we face. It may involve tough decisions; it may require extra time in planning precautions and putting in safeguards; it may cause disagreement and frustration from others along the way... but remember, whatever happens, God is in control.
Trust in Him. Commit your ways to Lord in all you do and He will direct your path. It may be nerve-wracking for a while, but God is with you. We are His; He is ours.
Pray this #deaconThursday, for deacons and church admins who are feeling overloaded. Whether it be from church responsibilities that are piling up and causing concern; whether too much "life-stuff" is happening outside of ministry that is taking a toll and causing them to be per-occupied... whatever the circumstance, pray for their ability to keep proper perspective. Pray for a calm in the midst of the storm. Pray for direction in figuring out plans and strategies of how to manage the load the face. May God grant them favor as they carefully move forward; having committed their ways to God; having placed their trust in Him to accomplish the miraculous in their situations..
May there be a spirit of grace, even in times of stress and questionable moments of confidence. Rejoice in the Lord, for He never fails us or leaves us behind. May we know the plans and purpose He has for us; even when there is much to sort through. For the glory of God... look to Him today.
An article came across my social media news feed the other day that caught my attention...a Youth Pastor who battled depression, while leading ministry and lived to tell about it. When I had a chance to go back and read it, he brought up the very reasons Bring Me 70 exists.
Here's a stat that hasn't been mentioned, in the growing list of reasons to #pray4pastors.
Forty-five!! percent of youth workers will fight depression at some point.
45%. Nearly half. In fairly short order, I can begin naming names of friends in youth ministry or senior pastors who have healthy churches as a whole. To think that half of them have faced depression, will face depression or are in battle now, while engaged in a healthy church and a solid youth group is disconcerting at best and alarming at worst.
Aaron Helman, the youth pastor from Indiana who wrote the article (and also writes on Smarter Youth Ministry) made another great statement that bears repeating:
"Ignoring your own problems is the easiest way to make sure you’re not available to help with anyone else’s."
Two sentences in the article later, he moves a couple steps into the future...
"If you burnout because of some unaddressed issue, your ministry will fall as well."
While it's true, healthy churches are made of healthy people, it's also true that it will be hard to maintain healthy ministry if the minister is unhealthy.
Whatever the issue or problem may be, confession is good for the soul. Not for world consumption through the medium of social media, at least not initially, but at least sharing that a problem exists, that it's your problem directly or it involves or affects you in some way... sharing it releases you from feeling that you are controlled by the problem. Share it with someone who is healthy and they will have the strength and stamina to do what is necessary and work through it with you.
Otherwise...what they don't know... it might not hurt them, but it will affect them when it brings you to ruin and it will damage the person who lives in denial, fear or defeat when they consider whether a problem exists.
Pray, this #youthPastorWednesday, for pastors, particularly kids and youth, that are battling depression. Pray that the spirit of bondage that consumes them with thoughts of failure, defeat, self-worth and whatever else the enemy would like to use against them to render them useless and ineffective for God would be broken. Pray God would lift their spirits. May God grant discernment as to whom and when they should share and confess their battle. May grace and love abound in those moments. Pray God would surround them and strengthen them. May their hope and trust in God regarding this battle be renewed. Pray for the lives that will impacted, when pastors begin experience these challenges and confess their admission... that leaders aren't perfect, nor are their followers.
God work the miraculous, for those in this specific battle. We commit them to your care. Accomplish your will in the lives and their ministry. May they emerge victorious, with greater perspective and understanding, ready for the next level you have in store for them. Focused minds. Ready hands. Joyful hearts. For your glory, we pray in the name of Jesus.
Associate: to join as partner, friend or companion.
On their website, Merriam-Webster in their synonym discussion of the word makes these two points:
- join implies a bringing into contact or conjunction of any degree of closeness
- associate stresses the mere fact of frequent occurrence or existence together in space or in logical relation
I got to thinking about this word yesterday, because I hate the dissolution of friendships. I know it happens, I know it's a part of life. Things change. People change. People move on. Plus, there's also room for difference that enter the picture that make continuing (whatever the nature of the relationship may be) not so feasible, not so worthwhile, not beneficial... in fact; staying could be detrimental in any number of ways.
Parting is such we sorrow, yet sometimes it's necessary in order to stay healthy.
Be that as it may, people come together because there exists agreement. There's an "on-board" factor of togetherness in circumstance or cause.
This alone makes it all the more important, why people need to prayerful consider what is going to transpire when entering new relationships, whatever their nature. Because their is a level of agreement, of alignment. Their is a joining as of forces; a linking of inseparability. Associate is to look or think of one thing and mentally connect with something or someone else.
Thus, is it's important to have God's help, especially for Pastors, in where and with whom they join in the work of the ministry.
Pray, this #associateTuesday, that pastors and the people of God alike, will be granted wisdom and discernment, when it comes to relationships and friendships of any nature (business, ministry and otherwise) May the careful consider who and where they should join forces with in carrying out the work of the Lord in ministry. May their be a spirit of unity as they work together. May their be a grace as differences and details of circumstances are worked out. Pray, that when a parting does occur, that it not be a rash, quick decision in a moment of tension and frustration. Even in parting, made their be agreement that truly, God is moving and closing a door, rather than one party storming off in their own right. May we be careful who we come into alignment with; always remembering that our alignment with God and His Word matters most. For eternity.
For the glory of God and the cause of Jesus Christ.
For the past couple of weeks, I've read the following the statement a few times online, through a couple of other ministry sites, in addition to, having heard it in real life over the same period of time. I think I even included once or twice in a previous post as well, but it bears repeating.
Healthy churches are made up of healthy people.
I heard it again, even over the weekend, but the part that really got me thinking was the statement:
Some are born again. Some are born against.
A play on words to be sure, as the transforming power of salvation is to bring us in to right relationship with God whereby our first concern begins to be more of God and less of us.
That said, some people, both save and unsaved, are "disrupters". There's a time and place to do so. Differing opinions, strategies that consider all-sides of an argument; weighing possible outcomes to a variety of scenarios in an effort to make the best decision and take the wisest course of action.
But for some; that's their role in every conversation. In every circumstance. There's a difference between working out differences and focusing on the differences to the point and hope of not reaching decisions versus making life difficult and giving voice to thought as one expresses their frustration to the degree that others begin to share it and take it on as their own.
The body of Christ will always have difference among us, but when our ideas begin to get in the way of the work that God desires to accomplish; that's a disruption that carries eternal consequences. It harms the witness and work of the church.
It's bad enough when it's unintended and accidental; it's problematic when it happens on purpose
Pray, this #seniorPastorMonday, that churches would experience a spirit of unity and harmony, in a greater dimension. May their be a grace as differences are worked out, but may the power of the Holy Spirit work to remind all of believers that the we are meant to build each other up in Christ and point the unsaved to Christ... not destroy each other and the turn the unsaved into uninterested at the same time. Pray, that indeed, more churches would become healthy as their people become healthy, maturing in their faith; growing in the walk with God. May God be lifted up, as we remember again, we are not our own... we were created by God, redeemed by God and granted access to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
May our lives be about Christ.
May we show that to be true to those around us who desperately need to experience God for themselves.
May God's will be made perfect in our imperfections.
United... all for God and God for us, all.
With an hour remaining, while the day is called Saturday, and I'm not sure what will become of #effectiveSunday. This of course, I take a moment to remind God of my plight. There's much to pray for, maybe I should keep it simple. No direction.
Then just moments ago...I have to set this for you.
While the kids were still awake from a few hrs ago, I put on an old White Heart music video. For the past few hours, YouTube just keeps playing what's next, so for at least the past hour, it's been all Petra, practically all 80's and 90's. Meanwhile, I'm browsing Craigslist, cars for sale by owner... in an area out of state because curiosity gets the better of me sometimes. (this is an addicting way to window shop online, by the way)
As I'm browsing older used cars, remembering the greatness of when they were new and how fun they would be to drive again, while listening to music of which the same can be said (great music that hasn't lost the power of its' message), something in my mind jumps to aging Christians:
People of faith, with a long record of following Christ, being active in whatever church they attend, sharing their faith with the lost, encouraging the faith of younger believers (in respect to both physical and spiritual age)...
What impact did they make after first accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior and now, decades later, what a testimony to the greatness and faithfulness of God and the importance of connecting with a healthy church (regardless of physical and numerical size)
What did God accomplish in them because they reached out to God.
What did God accomplish through them, because they reached out to those around them.
It's a perspective we should all consider in light of our own journey of faith and walk with God.
What is He accomplishing in us and through us? For if we are not willing to allow Him to work in our lives, nor willing to have Him use as to speak truth and life into those around us, then we fail to be useful for the work of the Lord, let alone effective and efficient.
Those who are lukewarm get spit out, if your Bible reads as mine does.
Too convicting for you? Yeah. How do you think I feel writing it?
Lord, on this #effectiveSunday, I need your help. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. May God cement and secure that commitment in the hearts and lives of every Christian, young and old. May we impact our world for Christ, whether we are freshly saved or marinating in sanctification. Pray the people of God continue to remain ready, willing and available, to be used by God, even when called into the unknown. May we trust His leading and His prompting, that His plan is not to harm, but one of hope and a future.
Effective. By the power of the Holy Spirit. With the truth of God's Word. For the cause of Jesus Christ.
For some reason yesterday, I was pondering what happens in the community when people fail. Whether they be every day Joe's & Jane's or people of leadership, status & prominence. Whether it be a relatively private failure or it affects the area of which many people live; there are always consequences.
Sadly, sometimes the community, the body of Christ responds as though the example set by Christ is not available.
Sometimes, the community-at-large, still in need of the saving grace of Christ, responds as it they have already received it.
So, those with Christ, respond as it to ignore Him.
Those without Christ, respond as if He was standing there.
While it's an interesting dichotomy, it's also a disheartening one.
Yes, we have the example set by Christ and truth of how we should live as given through God's Word, so there is a "we should know better" factor. However, we are still sinners save by grace and the very definition of sanctification means we are stilling being worked on by God to becoming more like Christ.
It doesn't make us better than any one or put on a higher moral plain, by any stretch of the imagination.
It simply means we should exemplify Christ in all we say or do and that if anyone should display the quality and character of Christ, it should be the body of Christ and the people of God to a lost and dying world, rather than the world telling the church they don't look like the church they've heard about and think they understand.
(interesting how God times things... i just came across an article that is posted at www.churchleaders.com this morning, and was posted originally at www.desiringgod.com that calls us to pray for our enemies. The author, J.R. Vassar writes the following, "we are not Americans first, but Christians first")
All too often respond in our own might, opinion and belief and not as a follower of Jesus Christ... which we are, as we are not our own, but were bought with a price. There is but one innocent blood by whom we are saved.
Pray, this #communitySaturday, that the church would indeed, model and exemplify the body of Christ, as only those who have experienced His love and saving grace can share. Pray the world would not be found valid, in their arguments against God based on moments when the church "gets it wrong" in their response to situations. Pray the community of Christ effective plants the gospel and waters the seeds of faith, that through our engagement with people in difficult places, they will come to know God loves them, has a plan for their lives; that they don't have to live life alone, fearing what's unknown in the days to come. May those who follow Christ be found living up to the reputation that both precedes and follows the title "Christian".
For the glory of God and the cause of Jesus Christ.
Worthy of consideration, this is (as Yoda would state)...
One does not take on a mission they don't plan to emerge victorious
One does not take on a mission without having a plan in place or creating one immediately after acceptance
One does not take on a mission with the intent they will not see it through to completion
One does not take on a mission which they do not believe and support
One does not take on a mission empty-handed or without knowing people and resources
And when it comes to the kingdom of God...
One does not take on a mission without a calling.
One does not take on a mission without a purpose
One does not take on a mission without an anointing.
One does not take on a mission without prayer.
Yet, sadly... missionaries are burning out just like pastors. Thankful, not at the same rate, but drastic enough to have an effect. So what happens?
The feel they are running out of people and resources
They seem to be struggling that they will win for God
They are discouraged the plan isn't or doesn't seem to be working.
Perhaps they feel they heard the calling wrong.
It's a daily struggle to continue in prayer, seeing little results
Little results over long periods of time lead to discouragement.
Discouragement gives way to the question, "what's the point?"
Perhaps I was wrong in all of this and it's harder than it should be because the anointing is gone. Maybe it was never there.
Whatever the reasons for the burnout; the need for missions and people to accept it is great. The more times change, the more things stay the same. People still place their trust in the wrong thing and seek direction from the wrong source.
There is but One God. One Son. One confession. One plan of salvation. One cross of redemption.
Only One can forgive sins. Only One grants access to Heaven.
On this #missionsFriday, pray that missionaries would be strengthened anew and afresh. May their passion for the lost be rekindled. May their calling be made clear again. May their determination to emerge victorious for the cause of Jesus Christ rise to new heights. Pray their spirits would soar, as an eagle. In His sovereign timing and planning, may new opportunities, people and resources come to the forefront and made available for the advancement of the kingdom of God and the cause of Jesus Christ.
While we need more pastors and more missionaries, pray God would re-raise those who are ready to fold their hand.
How easily we can get thrown off course. Often times, as it relates to our task list (as known as productivity meter, scale of accomplishment and "when does this day end" display). More often though, and sometimes harder to recognize (or admit), is our change in attitude.
Maybe there really was a problem and now, you don't know how to proceed. Maybe everything was fine, then suddenly. a wrong word and an even worse response and the escalators are moving. Which one do you head for?
Is this your chance to let it all out; shout from the rooftops?
Is this your opportunity to let it go; release to the depths to be forgotten?
Such moments are never timed well, either. Or they are. Devised by the enemy of our souls to prove that He can take our focus off what matters for eternity; get us frustrated with those closest to us; taint our witness and hinder the task at hand, whatever its ranking on the scale of importance.
If this is what transpires in the life of the everyday believer, how much more is the enemy determined to thwart the days' events of those in ministry. Pastors, deacons, administrators, volunteers. Anything to throw your balance, your focus, your determination, your concentration, your game plan, your attitude and your desire to fulfill the plans and purposes God has in store for you.
The minutia will lead the way in causing angst and frustration, until bigger pieces of the puzzle are affected. Suddenly, you're throwing or dodging some pretty serious snowballs.
If only we can keep our eyes focused on Christ.... we can walk on water. (as sung by Audio Adrenaline, on the Bloom album).
Pray, this #deaconThursday, that no matter what we face; whether they be natural challenges or seemingly "out-of-nowhere" problems, that deacons, admins and staff, as well as pastors, would remain focused on Jesus. May they take every opportunity to cast their cares on Him; whether they be distractions, frustrations or recognizing a change in attitudes that doesn't glorify God. Prayer cooler heads would prevail when tensions begin mounting. Pray for discernment in handling difficult people and grace for those recognize their tendency to be difficult. The body of Christ be strengthened, as each person works on becoming the person God intended and has planned in advance for them to become.
May the promises of God that are yes & amen come to fruition for those who love Him.
For His glory. By His grace. For the cause of Jesus Christ.
I've been reflecting the past couple days on my childhood. I think I have an idea why this has transpired... most likely the sometimes surreal realization of just how quickly life passes, as if we were going slower than the posted limit in the far right lane.
A comedian from my childhood, had a story in his act of getting his tonsils taken out as a kid. He remarks that when you're 5 yrs old and your life passes before you, it's pitiful. There really isn't that much of a life to pass before you.
I was kinda surprised, as I reflected, what memories came to mind from days gone by. Moments I wish were different, odd moments, that some would question how or I why one would remember "that, of all things". Be that as it may, whether you have a 5-yr old sitting next to you as you read this, or you are 50, life is indeed short.
The moments and the memories you are create when you are 50 should be and are meant to be cherished, The same goes for the kid who will one day look back and remember being just 5 years old.
For times with my family, for the times with friends, for the teachers who spoke life to me, for the pastors who imparted God's Word and wisdom, for the lessons I've learned from those who didn't care that I was around or maybe would rather I wasn't....
Where would I be, had I not known all this time that God has a plan and purpose for every person born. He had a plan long before that, even.
It makes me consider all the more... what will my kids remember. Life is too short to mess up your kids by failing as a parent.
There's a lot that I mess up, granted, but as Steve Martin says in his character Tom Baker in the movie Cheaper By The Dozen,
"If I screw up raising my kids, nothing I achieve will matter much."
I need God's help to raise Godly kids. Godly family that will help me when I fail. Godly friends who will support and encourage me when I'm frustrated and watching the advancement of gray hair as I stand at the mirror. And I need pastors and teachers who will help me, do what they helped my parents do.... build a foundation of faith that will last a lifetime... however quickly or slowly it may pass.
Pray, this #youthPastorWednesday, for pastors and teachers, as they play a vital role in helping to instill a solid foundation of faith in the hearts and lives of today's youth. May they not be discouraged by the distractions that call for kids attention, in hopes of robbing their soul. Pray that parents and pastors would model a life of faith and Godliness that helps kids understand, we do not have to go through life alone. May kids today know and understand that God indeed has a great plan and a meaningful purpose for their lives, to walk daily with God, to experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
May we forever be, lives changed for eternity. Whether we are 5 or 50. Whether we quickly fade away or live to see our children's children... may we leave a legacy that honors the work of God in our hearts and minds. For today. For tomorrow.
For His glory.
A brief conversation over the weekend that didn't last more than a couple minutes, and a passing thought yesterday morning that didn't last more than a couple seconds. Together, they bring you today's #pray4pastor reading.
A pastor over the weekend reached out to me for just a moment, to say "thanks" for praying for pastors, referring to the daily work that goes into Bring Me 70. I said no problem or you're welcome and in a matter of seconds it was over. However, a few hours later, I reached back out to that pastor... offering my thanks for his encouragement; not realizing his acknowledge of Bring Me 70 was something it turned out I needed that day.
He followed my thanks with this insight... "praying for pastor is not something that a lot of people do" (that's there not a predominant voice expressing the need - my paraphrase). Then he added, that as pastors, "it's not something we [they themselves] can call attention to."
Yes, there will be public moments that a congregation is asked to pray for a specific need for a pastor, something they are believing will happen for the church or the community; perhaps there is a physical situation or something that is (somewhat) public knowledge, that a pastor will ask for prayer.
By and large, though.... they won't stand at the pulpit and ask for prayer over situations that resemble what they hear about from parishioners. Kids that are away from God, marital strife, financial strain, pending health complications that doctors have yet to pinpoint, leadership decisions and challenges.
We go for prayer for all these matters and usually to our pastors.
Where do pastors go for all these matters of their own?
While you're thinking about that... I had this moment yesterday morning. While praying for a friend of mine, the words came out without my even thinking about them.
Lord, answer the prayers of my friend.
We ask God to answer our prayers and we pray for our friends, but how much more can we stand in agreement with our friends, than that God would hear, honor and answer their prayers? They may even be praying for you and you being willing to put your self on hold, so God can work in the life of prayers being offered elsewhere... who knows what God might accomplish?
What are your pastors praying for? While they are privately battling issues unknown, they more often than not, continue to set themselves and their own matters aside; to pray for those in their church, their ministry, the community... to be used by God in a greater capacity, beyond their own ability, to continue to carry out the work of the Lord. All while silently being distracted and frustrated from within, because few stand and know how to stand, in agreement with what they face.
Pray, this #associatePastorTuesday... first that God would forgive us, for putting ourselves and our prayers front and center; that we have not concerned ourselves more with the well-being of others and more importantly, the lives of our spiritual leaders. Pray, that God would hear and answer the prayers of our Pastors. For their vision, for their wisdom, for their hopes & dreams; for their fears and challenges. Pray for the battles they face at home... may the power of the Holy Spirit intervene and intercede on their behalf. Relationships restored. Finances will flourish. Emotions balanced. Wisdom received. Vision made clear. Joy fulfilled. Hearts made glad. Pray that church pastors and leaders will be strengthened and renewed to lead with clarity of purpose and a fresh anointing for the calling that has been placed upon their lives.
LET THERE BE LIFE!!!! In churches and ministries that are drying up and burning out. Come quickly, we pray.
To God be all glory, honor and praise.
Two Sundays in a row now, my Pastor has cut his sermon short and moved to a time of prayer at the altar.
Why? you ask. Something wrong with the message?
Nothing. In fact, they were both so "on point" you really wanted him to continue; it was that good of a message.
He cut them short, because he recognized what he prays at the opening of every message. "God, people didn't come to hear (his name here), they came to hear a word from You."
It's easy to go to church and get "caught up" in the personality and the dynamics of the pastor and the service at large. And it's tempting for the pastor to do the same.
But one that knows and understands that its God who moves on the hearts and lives of man and not the oratory skill of the finite mind, has a greater chance to experience moments such as this.
It's a matter of awareness. And the timing was perfect, as God does. People responded... not to a man; but to the work of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. It was an incredible moment....two Sundays in a row; that would have been missed had a pastor focused more on completing his message than hearing the direction and prompting of the Spirit.
All too often, it's easy to get caught up in position. For the one who holds it, the one who aspires to it, the one who looks up to it. If all three don't recognize it's the work of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the plans and purpose of God and not the position itself, the experience changes. Drastically.
A pastor out of tune will be as frustrating to listen to as is one's favorite instrument or radio station. Maybe it won't be that bad initially and you'll bear through it for a while, but spiritual maturity somewhere along the way will recognize something is amiss.
That's when all sorts of trouble can begin.
Pray, this #seniorPastorMonday, that trouble never begins. Pray that would pastors, in number and maturity, would increase in their awareness of the promptings of the Holy Spirit... for the power of God to work in spite of them if He can't work through them. Pray for a humbleness in pastors... may they always be willing participants, to prefer to be worked through. May their be a keen sense to the time and the place and message that God has... not a "one-size fits all" sermon or a "canned" speech as though it were an entirely different audience every week. May God do the miraculous in the lives of His church and His people, as pastors recognize their position and do their part to remain tuned-in to Heaven and in-step with their own walk with God.
Strengthen the faith of our Pastors, today. Ready. Willing. Able. For all that God is in store for their lives and their ministry.
For the cause of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Properly tuned for His glory.
In conjunction with yesterdays' prayer that the community would be hearers of the Word, there are many in the church still struggling to respond appropriately when they hear the Word of God.
It's entirely possible we oversimplify our faith at times.
Just trust in God.
Just read your Bible.
Just spend time in prayer. (even if it's a 70-second challenge)
Just share your story
Just be loving (on days other than Valentines)
Be the body of Christ that brings glory and honor to God.
And yet, daily realizing the work involved to make the right decisions... more easily said; not so easily done.
Do the right thing, at the right time, with the right measure, with all your heart.
All of which come as a matter of habit (thing), experience (timing), discernment (measure) and attitude (heart)
Maybe it's just me that struggles with this..
We have good intentions. We start off strong. We're ready to go. Then life. Frustration. Set-backs. Minor victories over-shadowed by major setbacks. The slow-down begins.
(Maurette Brown Clark is singing It Ain't Over as I'm writing this, listening to Pandora. "Keep fighting until your victory is won")
What if, for as easy as we make our faith out to be, we give up all the more easily?
Effective and efficient work isn't easy work. It's hard work done well, with right tools, resources and manpower with right attitudes.
If the church isn't so equipped, doing the work of the Lord after we've heard it will be more of a struggle than God ever intended for us to carry out.
Pray this #effectiveSunday, God help your people be the body of Christ you intended for us to show to a lost & dying world in desperate need of You. May we overcome the things that hinder us from doing the right thing. May we learn the timing for what God has in store for us to accomplish. Pray for discernment, that we may proceed with the correct measure. Pray we carry out the plans and purposes God has for us with good attitudes and a clean heart. May the body of Christ be found as a magnet, drawing this lost world to God through the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace and mercy of the cross of Christ.
On this day when the world acknowledges the power of love, may many experience the love of God. Eternity changed as hearts are transformed. For the glory of God. Thank you, for so loving the world that you sent your Son, Jesus Christ.
You may or may not have seen or heard yet, the story about the professor from Purdue, who made, what appears to be threatening statements of violence against women who fall on the pro-life side of the abortion argument.
Whether his statements are sarcastic or not remains to be seen as an investigation into his remarks has begun, but one can't help wonder what's in his heart as his mouth speaks.
Upon reading about this the other day, it got me thinking about how we engage community.
Most don't present their beliefs and share their faith in hopes of stirring up conflict and causing problems. For those who oppose, I don't think they hope to stir up problems, either. For the most part, at least.
It does seem that most people who "preach" the importance of practicing tolerance, seem to forget how to do so when someone makes statements from a position of faith and spirituality.
Be that as it may, as much as we should consider our statements of faith and positions on the issues that face our world today, we should also commit to prayer the hearts of those who will see and hear us.
The truth is hard to hear, hard to accept and often difficult to respond appropriately. On occasion, it's difficult to share in the first place.
I can't fathom, how much more important it is, that we cover our communication between the church and the community in prayer. So, let us begin here.
Pray, this #communitySaturday, that the church would effectively communicate the truth... of our faith in God, the transforming power of Jesus Christ and the relevancy of Scripture to our daily lives. Pray for the hearer... may the hearts be ready to receive, not the words of man, but what God would desire to work in their lives. May the love, grace, compassion, forgiveness and conviction of God's word supersede our feeble attempts to be politically correct, tolerant and all avoidance of being offensive.
We can not share the love of God to one person on our own strength any more than we can live a single moment without God's provision of air. For at one time, every person will be a Hearer of the Word. May many more become Doers.
By the grace and for the glory of God.
It dawned on me yesterday afternoon, as I continued to reflect on the prayer posts for the past few days, in light of the movie on pastors, that starting a fresh ministry can't be spur of the moment.
While the pastor who stayed behind and wound up on a power trip, forever changed for the worse, the pastor who couldn't wait to venture out received a harsh and swift reality check of what it would take.
It wasn't covered in prayer and aside from trying to convince the other pastor to go with them, outside counsel, let alone wise counsel, was never sought. When they talked about how to pay for it, they simply said "We'll use the trust fund payout we are expecting."
It was a stark contrast to the verse that talks about counting the cost, lest one is not able to finish the project and becomes the object of foolishness to all who pass by.
There was a time where stepping into missions and planting churches was simpler than it is today. Be that as it may, such decisions were made from a true calling of God and were covered in prayer.
God doesn't do anything half-hearted. He can not be the God of the impossible, while not being able work every out detail and decision to accomplish His plan and purpose for His glory.
What God is in, God will provide whatever is needed to accomplish it.
When we try to go it alone, justify it with reasons other than "calling", seek to accomplish it on our strength rather than reliance on God, on our own insight and wisdom instead of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
A church plant. A mission. A position of leadership, influence and authority. Everyday life.
Sure, you can try it on your own, but when you have the opportunity to have God write your story, why would you want to leave Him out of it?
Pray, this #missionsFriday, for Pastors and missionaries, just getting their start. May there be a true calling and anointing upon their lives, visible and confirmed by those whose faith is strong and mature; known for Godly counsel and spiritual discernment. Pray God raise them up as they prepare for the work of the ministry; that they will complete the process excited and prepared. May they not be dismayed or discouraged if things don't always go as planned, but they remain steadfast to will of God and what He desires to accomplish. May they be committed to follow and honor the direction God provides, trusting His ways and thoughts are higher. Prayer their spiritual ears be attuned and their spiritual eyes open and focused on God, while keenly aware of their surroundings.
Pray God's blessing on their endeavors as Ambassadors for Christ.
For the glory of God as they live life as we all do. One day at a time, by His grace, in His love, and with His strength.
I didn't cover in yesterday's Don't Make Messes post, about the pastoral movie I watched recently.
Throughout the movie, the handling of situations and the conflict and tension between pastors and deacons was deep. Indeed, some showed genuine concern for what was transpiring and tried to respond appropriately. Others, responded in the flesh. Others acted our their own power trip, using title and position as an overarching reason
It was incredible. I know pastors and boards have disagreements and sharp ones at that, as we discussed a few weeks ago, but I truly hope and pray that tensions and tempers between pastors and deacons remain at bay, rather than what this movie portrayed.
Interesting enough, (back to real life) our Wednesday night devotional was on seeking wisdom and advice. The premise, was the story of Moses and his father-in-law.. Jethro gives some great advice as to how Moses should handle the nation of Israel.
Practical, efficient, true wisdom, Moses receives from his father-in-law. And Scripture says Moses did all his father-in-law had said to do. This wasn't an exercise in obedience, so much as it was recognizing what was being offered... insight that would help Moses for the course of his tenure as the nations' leader.
Pastor offered this great insight into delegation. (I'm paraphrasing)
The purpose is to allow one the time to work on what they do best. You delegate so that you can do the "thing" that nobody else can do. If you don't, you'll find yourself doing everything but the one thing that only you can do and if it gets done at all, it won't be done well.
Solomon asked for wisdom. And everything he could have asked for was added. Why? Because wisdom is the ability to put matters into proper context and perspective, to think carefully and consider calmly what the best course of action is given the surrounding circumstances.
Yes, it takes work. But it's worth it. And if pastors and deacons alike are carefully to utilize such a method, then I'll sleep better knowing their are many more healthy dynamics between deacons and pastors than was portrayed on screen.
On this #deaconThursday, pray that there would be a proper spirit of wisdom and service to those who hold advisory positions. Pray cooler heads, would indeed prevail in tense moments of disagreements. May a spirit of unity, respect and passion for the work of the ministry be the underlying current that dominates conversations, meetings and decisions. Pray the power trips of pastors and of deacons do not cause a path to destruction that leaves a church in ruins, but may the be a renewed sense of cooperation to work together for the advancement of the gospel in the communities where they are planted.
Wisdom from on high. For what man does on his own will falter. But with God, all things are possible.
May we have the mind of Christ, as we seek first the kingdom of God.
I recently watched a movie about Pastors, desiring to advance their ministerial career. The story line was one of a perfect storm of Pastoral leadership gone awry.
Two pastors are waiting for their next move within the church. One, impatient leaves, taking his wife and their expected trust fund to start their own church. The other, suggesting being patient "a little longer" stays. After starting the new church and beginning service, they quickly find out the trust fund balance wasn't nearly what they expected. The new church is short-lived.
While that's going on, the patient pastor writes an anonymous letter, leading to the Senior Pastors removal, along with that of his right-hand man, a life-long friend. After some conflict, the "patient" pastor takes charge. Then, the power trip begins.
For the purposes of this post, the downward spiral begins when he shows symptoms of what I'll call the MMW effect.
Don't mess with the message. - God is pretty clear on this point.
Don't mess with the money. - An offense more appalling than politicians' and taxpayer dollars
Don't mess with the women. - This never bodes well for anyone, whether it's a two-income marriage where both make minimum wage, the CEO who's millions come with extra zeros or the Pastor whose pulpit reaches a few or many.
If there's away to do the wrong thing, perfectly... this character pulls all the stops.
Bad decisions executed flawlessly. Pretty sure this is what's known as a royal screw-up. Brilliant stupidity also comes to mind.
As the movie unfolds.... conflict. drama. tension. The story line progresses and it borders on worst-case scenario situations.
Sadly, I recall a real-life story of a Pastor who experienced a fall from grace. Huge ministry. Big money. And when someone told him things were getting out of hand and it was time to shut it down, he didn't. Why? Because the ministry was doing so well. At least financially. And it was taking control. That pastor's demise came much like the movie. Too big to fail leads to a loud thud upon one hitting the ground.
1500-1700 pastors leaving each month? Somewhere, someone is leaving because of a problem from messing with the message, the money, or the people. Some pastor is probably battling it right now. The fallout hasn't happened yet, but it's getting awfully close. It's scary. It's heart-breaking. It's problematic. It's preventable.
Pray, this #youthPastorWednesday, for all pastors who have succumb to some level of a power trip. For younger pastors, those just starting out working with kids and teens, pray God help guard their hearts and minds. May they remain focused on fulfilling their calling rather than climbing ministries' ladder. Pray for pastors in trouble, whether the spiral is just starting or about to unravel before their very eyes... may God work the miraculous. Pray the spirit of pride, ego and position be broken; that God may do a corrective, cleansing work in their heart. In time, may they experience healing and restoration in their life regardless of what consequences may result from the fallout.
God, help the congregations and communities affected. May such events not hinder the advancement of the Gospel.
May God work all things, even events tragic as portrayed in the movie, for His good. For His glory. By His grace.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.