Perhaps you've heard this phrase before, but it was new to me when I heard this morning. It was the concept of deacons as "caretakers of the soul." In simple terms, in breaking down the terminology of the church, consider evangelist as the preachers and deacons or elders as pastors.
So the distinguishing factor comes down to who is delivering the Word and who is taking care of the hearer of the Word. Quite simply and frankly, when one person is handling both responsibilities, it's a recipe for trouble. To shed some like on this perspective, it's similar to the relationship between doctors and nurses. Someone needs to bring clarity and correction to the problem and someone needs to prepare and follow-up on the care and well-being of the patient.
The one who both delivers the Word and cares for what happens after... it's double-duty. It will burn them out twice as fast and cut their effectiveness in half. Those aren't scientifically-backed numbers, but you know first hand what those numbers are for your life when you try to maintain being over-extended for prolonged periods of time. I know what happens to me and it's not good, nor healthy.
Furthermore, though such duties can and do take their toll on those who serve as deacons. As taking care of people's physical and emotional and mental needs are stressful and draining, so too is meeting their spiritual needs, especially as it so often ties into and relates with every other realm and arena of one's life. That said, as all things in this life and these bodies will fade away, only our soul remains. Thus, I ask, could there be a more important role in the Christian faith than "caretaker of the soul"?
Pray this #deaconThursday, that God would strength and encourage these caretakers, who serve the church in these roles, whether their title formally be one of deacon or pastor. May God grant them fresh wisdom and revelation as they converse with people and speak into the health of their lives. Pray for churches where the Preachers are struggling to deliver the Word because there is not enough to help in the care of the congregation, whatever the reasons for such a circumstance. Pray they would be empowered to press on in their responsibilities, as they faithfully serve even in the face of tiredness, frustration and stress.
Peace as they persevere
Faith in the face of frustration
Clarity amidst the confusion.
One step at a time, as we walk this life.
For the glory of God.
I'll be the first to admit, I don't have it all together. Nobody does. I recognize that. Yet, the human condition is very real. It is also, very broken.
No matter which avenue of life you find yourself and what perception you have towards others, we all make comparisons at some point. And it's easy to look at those in places of prominence from a vantage point that is nowhere near a level of prominence and notice the mind wondering and wandering. Some handle the differences between their place and the place of another with frustration and self-pity. Others respond to this relationship with criticism. What's interesting about the human condition is a circumstance can exist, either in reality or in the mind, while the other party is unaware and unsuspecting. It happens every day. At home. At work. At church.
Speaking of unaware... I heard of a story recently in which a retired ministry struggled with depression for a year, back when he was a senior pastor. It was news to me. Yet my first thought was (and I may never know the answer) did the deacon board know? I would hope so, in order that they may pray and be the support during that time to help see the pastor through, but in today's world, who knows how churches are handling such matters. With the high rate of burnout, they may not be doing as well as we hope.
So, it's quite possible this #deaconThursday for an individual within church leadership, or the entire board, to be left in the dark. I understand how it happens, as we all have certain pieces of information which aren't shared with certain kids on the block. It's not a matter of secrecy, so much as it's more often a matter of trust and a reflection on the nature and quality of a relationship.
That said, church leadership continues to need our prayers and support, as they continually step up to pray and support those in need within the church and community.
Let's pray this #deaconThursday, that God would give them wisdom as they lead our churches and congregations, even in the face of relationships that perhaps are... more work than they should be at times. Pray for strength and trust as they work for the advancement of the ministry. For the relationships that may be strained, broken or damaged, may God do a healing and restorative work in the hearts and lives of both deacons and pastors. Pray also for those within the church; specifically for those who feel as outsiders looking in and perhaps struggling to find their place within the church and it's ministries. May God do a work within them as well and bring a clarity and a purpose to both their perception and their reality.
For we labor together
For the cause of Christ.
May the church advance
Unhindered, nor dismayed.
But with purpose and focus
For the glory of God.
On any given day, over the course of the day, I usually have opportunity to listen to a handful of sermons via radio broadcast. The cool part is, if I'm in the vicinity of the preferred radio network, I get to hear the same pastors consistently, which I'm truly enjoying. That said, one of the broadcasts, closes their program with an "ask the Pastor" segment.
Yesterday I missed pretty much the entire sermon, but their ask Pastor submission registered in my spirit as today's #deaconThursday perspective. The question was pretty straightforward, and minus specifics regarding the context of the matter, so was the answer.
"Is it possible for a Pastor to have to have too close of a friend?"
And the short answer, was of course, yes.
Keep in mind, the specific context, one is left to wonder... and it's probably best that we didn't.
Friendships are interesting. We've all, hopefully, had some incredible friendships, forever etched in our hearts and minds. Others, we may truly regret. Thus, we approach relationships with wisdom and discernment, keeping in mind one's motives and establishing healthy boundaries accordingly. Never could this framework be more important than in these troubled and trying times.
Business relationships are cut-throat; not that that is anything new. And people have all sorts of reasons for being in the good graces and inner circles of people and organizations who are trying to affect positive change in community, whether they be an influence at a spiritual, social or economical level. Pastors are even more susceptible; to be taken advantage of in any number of scenarios and relationships that may be questionable or inappropriate.
Pastors need what we all want. Strong, healthy friends that we can rely out with second guessing why we have them as friends or how long they will remain friends with us. Furthermore, he who wants friends must show himself friendly. But that's a perspective for another time.
Meanwhile, let's pray, this #deaconThursday, that God would encourage Pastors who feel or perhaps, truly don't have any good, close friends. May the Holy Spirit reassure them, that they are not forgotten nor neglected. Pray that God would bring healthy people into their lives who God use to be and become, a good friend. Pray for a spirit of unity among deacons and staff and those who work with Pastor's in the work of the ministry. May the relationship between them, be well-established, ground in love and the faith as they work for the cause of Jesus Christ. Finally, pray for Pastors who, perhaps, aren't easy to get along with, when it comes to friendship. Whatever the reasons for such an existence, may God do a work in their hearts and minds and trust Him for the transformation and release that He desires to accomplish in their lives, so that they be and have a good, close friend.
For two working together get a better return for their effort
May we engage anew,
For we need the help of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,
Nearly as much as we need the favor of the hand of God.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
I think it's possible I listened to too many sermons yesterday while the radio was on, because now I can't remember exactly whose stood out when I considered today's #deaconThursday post. So while I want to quote the pastor specifically, nor say with 100% certainty who it was, I know he was talking about forgiveness.
Let's be real for a moment and realize and remember that church leadership doesn't also get along. Just as in any organization, those in management and leadership positions have different ideas and theories that don't always blend well and thus, have the potential to become points of conflict... and significant ones at that.
Emotions run high, words get twisted, perspectives get skewed and misunderstandings ensue. And yet as the preacher closed out this portion of the broadcast, he highlighted... we shouldn't be passive in our response, nor aggressive, nor passive-aggressive, but display aggressive grace.
There's so much in the Bible that is personal and so often we try to apply these principles to how we should handle our interactions with other nations and countries and make these things work on a larger scale. And while different forces are at work and in play in those circumstances, part of me wonders, how can we consider what it looks like for a nation to overcome evil with good, when it's people, in their personal relationships can't overcome evil with God.
We desire to repay, get back, get even or tell them to get away. Bitterness and forgiveness do not live in the same house. Love covers a multitude of sins and grace absorbs wrong-doings.
God covers are shame and yet so we are so quick to point out in others what we think should shame them; as if we have our act together. Yet as much as it is with you, live at peace. It's not saying there won't be conflict and disagreement. But let's not live with a spirit of war between us as live out our lives; whether in the marketplace nor the ministry.
Thus, on this #deaconThursday, pray for churches that are in trouble, because of the struggle and conflict taking place among the leadership. As many churches have been ripped apart as a result of such events, may the Holy Spirit infuse a spirit of grace and understanding into the circumstance and conversation. Pray that calmer heads would prevail and that God would do a work in the hearts and minds of those involved. May there be a shift in the conversation, even this very day and that grace would overcome and may love win. Pray for a miraculous move of healing and restoration to follow; that while it may not transpire overnight, may the process begin.
That God would do what only He can do,
As we are faithful to live and act as He has called us to do.
That our lives would reflect Christ
Even in the times, when we'd rather not.
May we be aggressively graceful
For His glory we pray.
Pastor Allen Wright says there are two kinds of people in the world... two kinds of people that exist in all of our lives. Dreamers and discouragers.
How to tell the difference in your own life is pretty simple. You just have to pay attention to their response when you tell them your dream. For ultimately, they will tell you they are on board with helping you get there or they'll tell you not to bother with the pursuit of your dream. Keep in mind, I'm not dismissing wise counsel and the legitimate concerns that may arise over the course of conversation regarding one's dream, but there are only two possible outcomes when it comes to dreams. Achievement. Or abandonment.
We talked a number of time when it comes to ministry, about pastors and church leaders surrounding themselves with people who will indeed be "on board" with the mission, vision and dreams of the church and what it's looking to accomplish and fulfill for the kingdom of God. But as I pondered this idea yesterday and considered some self-reflection, I couldn't help but think about how many serve and while helping someone pursue their dream, they go home frustrated and bothered for what is, and even more, what is NOT transpiring in their own dreams.
Such a struggle and inner conflict can create some real problems. It can be troubling to continue witness positive things happening in one realm of life only to return or revisit another area that feels like it is in chaos and disarray. It plays on our emotions, robs our strength and frustrates our joy. Eventually is spills over and pours out into other arenas of our lives and can really do a number, if we are not careful in how we respond.
On this #deaconThursday, pray for those who are in difficult places; dealing with inner conflict of perhaps knowing they are where they are suppose to be in ministry, but frustrated by other areas of life feeling as though they don't have a clue. May God help them, as they submit to His will and His ways and acknowledge the true and reality of their experience. Pray for the miraculous, as they cast their cares on Him. Pray for a peace, especially emotional and mentally; that God would bring clarity to the process and direction as to how they should proceed. May they continue to faithfully serve in their calling and ministry and pray for wisdom where perhaps God is preparing them for them for a change in their lives; that whether minor or major, God would do a work within them and through them that will accomplish more for the kingdom of God than they thought and dreamed possible.
For He knows the plans and purposes He has for you.
May we know them.
May we walk in them.
And when we don't understand the twists and turns,
Remain faithfully, trusting in the author and finisher of our faith.
For the glory of God.
I really had nothing for this post, until I was getting ready for church last night. It was at that moment, that I recalled not having replied to a comment made on social media regarding one of the political "hot topics" being discussed the past few days.
The reply that some await is my answer to the question, "what is my constructive alternative?"
Many issues are complex; a variety of factors coming together with numerous challenges and multiple layers of difficulty in need of sorting and filtering. There is no "simple" answer and of course, people are proposing blanket solutions, which rarely go over well and are ineffective to address specific nuances.
I know what the individual is looking for a helpful solution not yet proposed. My hesitancy to answer lies in that one, my opinion doesn't matter, as I'm not "in the room" of decision makers who will consider this a viable solution (even though I've heard it brought up by two others, since the time I thought of it). Furthermore, incredibly complex issues like this, usually require some deconstruction, with solutions offered specific to those issues rather than the "blanket covers all" approach.
All of that of course, sets up this #deaconThursday. Ministry can be amazingly difficult at times, and the complexities and intricacies overlap to the point that blanket decisions as useless as they are in politics. So the ideas that one might term "constructive alternative" will probably require some deconstruction of the issue or issues and working towards specific and viable solutions for very specific problems.
Among the many character traits of a leader, the short list includes that of a problem solver. Anyone can create a problem. Most everyone can spot a problem; the best among us can do so before everyone else. Figuring how to solve problems, though... if the leadership team is inept or ineffective in this process, then a ministry will forever be in trouble and a constant state of struggle.
On this #deaconThursday, pray for church leadership. May they people who can not only observe a problem but can also work through the process of discussing, analyzing and navigating the process towards solutions. Pray for wisdom, insight and creativity as they work towards this end. May ministry efforts not be hindered because of a lack of focus or ability to fix problems. Pray for discernment; that the church would not be a place for people to purposefully cause or create problems. Pray that God would divinely place the right people to be "in the room" for such a time as this, to bring and take the church to the place and level that would bring glory to God and advance the Gospel to the local community and the global society.
That the church would be a place of healing
Despite being made off broken people.
May we not continue breaking on purpose
But correct and repair life and commmunity
As we are transformed By the Spirit of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
Every once in a while, I'm "inspired" to switch things up from time to time when it comes to writing these posts. If you haven't picked up on that yet, well... I'm not sure what to tell ya. Visit the archives!
Well, today is an "every once..." kind of day. And it's courtesy of a sermon series on David, of which the final sermon aired yesterday morning. Since I wasn't sure what yet was in store for this post, the commentary that was offered on David's final days in this sermon really stood out.
We know David's heart and his desire to build the temple for God and God said, "no". Someone else will do it; you will not. So as David hands over the keys of the kingdom to his son Solomon, what does he also hand him?
And an advisory board.
Followed by one simple instruction. Go build God's temple.
We've prayed for deacons specifically when there is a change in leadership within the church. But look at the testament of David's insight in this story as a leader. He ensures that his successor not only has everything he needs, but he has everything in place.
It's the difference between handing someone a list of what they'll need and handing them the keys to the warehouse where everything is stored, waiting to be built. Furthermore, what a testament to the men that David selected for Solomon. Imagine the conversations David had with them, as he explained to them that he was setting Solomon up for nothing less than incredible success. The honor and the respect that they display to King David in his final days; that they will carry out David's wishes... who wouldn't want them at the executive table of counsel.
Now comes the hard part of switching up perspectives... how to pray?
On this #deaconThursday, pray that pastors would have divine wisdom when it comes to selecting deacons, advisors and staff. May they possess and instill a vision that will outlast their tenure at the helm. Pray for those that are selected; may there be a trust and respect; an honor and understanding of who they should be and how they should carry out their responsibilities. Pray for a spirit of unity; of teamwork... that they would work with a commitment to excellent for the purpose of eternal success. May God's favor rest upon them as a tip of honor to the pastoral leadership.
People with a heart after God
That despite in our mistakes,
God grants the desires of our hearts,
When in alignment with His will.
For His glory.
"'Now, I can handle this on my own.' Welcome to the world of anxiety.” - Allister Begg.
We're seeing every day the effects of a society that is moving ever farther away from God. And yet every time, for every circumstance that we think we can handle things on our own, we open the door for stress, pressure and worry.
It's no wonder that we can find no rest for bodies and peace for our hearts and minds.
Why do we continue to be afraid of the unknown, when God tells us so often to not be afraid?
Why do we trust in ourselves, when He instructs us to place our trust in hope?
Why do we hope in the efforts and promises of another, instead of the one who promised to never leave or forsake?
Every time we fail to seek the face of God, we open the door to anxiety. And anxiety exists in a world of chaos all it's own; capable of doing a number on one's heart and mind that they would rather not experience.
Of course, it doesn't help that we are living in a day and age where life is becoming more outrageous, more unbelievable, more incredible... more of the signs and times, that last night had me seriously asking how much longer a holy and just God will stand and take a society spitting in His face.
It brought me back once again, of wondering not just who are leaders are and what they are doing, but their advisors and what is the leadership being told by those whom they seek for counsel. While the writing may be on the wall, it remains that incredible discernment is needed to respond appropriately and rightly in the context of our faith in God.
The unknown is fearful enough... to not seek the face of God in handling it; why refuse to take advantage of His love, grace and direction when He offers it with open arms and no prerequisites?
So, let's pray this #deaconThursday, that church staff and leadership would not succumb to a spirit of fear and the pressures of anxiety. May they remain steadfast in their faith as they continue to place their trust in God and seek His face. Pray they continue, undeterred in the work and calling God has placed upon their lives; that they would remain faithfully under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. May God grant them wisdom, as He has promised to provide for those who ask of Him and exercise discernment in these increasingly challenging and confusing times.
For we have nothing to fear
For the power of God is at work
For those who trust in the Lord.
For the glory of God.
It's sometimes hard to know when it's time for a break. It can seemingly feel like there is never a good time for a break; whether it be a sabbatical, a vacation, an extended weekend getaway or a simply a night away to do something fun and enjoyable.
The world is in various states of chaos (again) and many tensions run high, to say nothing of our personal lives and the struggles we face on a daily basis that affect us the most.
But it's important to know your limits as well as to recognize the breaking point of those working with you. While people might disagree with the timing, for indeed people will always find something to disagree about, burnout happens in part because we fail to recognize when it's time to get away in the name of fun.
For sure, it can be just another balancing act, between being to serious and being to relaxed, but it's needs to be found and maintained if we have any intention of being effective and successful over the course of time.
So once again, on this short and sweet #deaconThursday, pray for church leadership. May the recognize and take advantage of opportunities to have fun. May the church not be so spiritual, that nobody enjoys their company, for indeed Christianity is a basis of relationships. May advisors and administrators have an awareness and a sense for burnout, and when an intervention needs to occur. Pray for the efffectiveness of the church to proceed unhindered, because processes and people are in place who know and understand balance and are able to discern when things are not working in such a state.
For we work by the power of God
Created for His purposes
To enjoy the life He has blessed us with,
Even as we live submitted to Him
For His glory.
Wednesdays make for an incredibly long day in my schedule, but it's offset by the fact that I'm in an area whose radio station I greatly enjoy. During their morning show yesterday, the host and hostess of the program chatted with a pastor, who had just come back from a one-month Sabbatical, that his church had blessed them with, as an act of appreciation. Very early in their chat, the host asked how long it took until he could actually enjoy the time away.
The pastor's response blew me away. I don't know why... maybe, because I didn't see it coming. But in a matter of seconds, it made sense.
He and the family didn't travel and get away for their Sabbatical, until they were two weeks in!
Spiritual adrenaline, they called it. Much like in any sport or activity where the energy is high for an extended period of time... the game is over, but the juices are still pumping. Your body is still in the "play to win" mode. It took this pastor two weeks to disengage to the point he could actually step into vacation mode and enjoy some R & R with his family.
As they chatted, the host shared his understanding of this phenomenon. And the opening statement to his expressing this sentiment... I didn't understand this until I served as a deacon.
They were talking about pastors being able to get away and how this often depends on the size of the church and the infrastructure of its operations. It's inline with what we've discussed and prayed many times. Smaller churches doesn't equate with less things to take care of, but it often equates to having less people to assist in the completion. And like many other arenas of life, this can certainly be a situation that is hard to fully comprehend until you've been on the inside.
Yet, even those on the "inside" may still not know fully what is going on. The emphasis of using Judas to prove my point has nothing to do with his betrayal, except to say, none of the disciples suspected him to the be the betrayer. Eleven men on the inside had no clue that Judas had sold his soul.
All the more reason, the "inner circle" of leadership within church ministry should be the strongest "life group" of the church.
So, on this #deaconThursday, let's pray for the strengthening of relationships in church leadership. May they be a refreshing and renewal of friendships between pastors, deacons and staff. Pray for a release, for those churches that are experience tense and difficult situations among their leadership. Pray for clarity and wisdom as they negotiate conversations and decisions. May their be a heightened sense of discernment among deacons and administrators, to recognize when pastors are in trouble, having difficulty and on the verge of burnout. May they know what to do, what to say, how to pray and how to help in tangible ways that are appropriate and necessary for the health and needs of the church.
A super-natural understanding,
For even those "in the know" don't always know.
May God grant wisdom generously
To those who know to ask for it.
For the glory of God
For the health of the body of Christ.
Is it not amazing, just how wrong we can get our lives when it comes to matters of faith and the application thereof to daily challenges and circumstances.
Like it actually depends upon us, more than it really does in the eyes of God. And so we push and drive ourselves into oblivion and frustration trying to do and make "it" work. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand the sentiment behind the "pray like it depends on God; work like it depends on you philosophy." But conversely, in a sermon that aired yesterday, given by Pastor Allen Wright, he offered these three words of wisdom.
Don't try harder.
Even typing it, it seems to defy logic. Yet there are times and places when the most basic truth stands as the most profound.
Can we let God be God?
Can we let Him do what He will?
Can we trust Him to see it through to the end that we can not see?
Can we stand in His faithfulness when we are not faithful?
Sorry, you don't struggle with this. I should go back and type those four questions with the words, "Can I..."
I don't want to try harder. Indeed, more often that not, it leads to more frustration, more difficulty, more stress... more things that I don't need. That aren't beneficial. That aren't helpful. Just more tired. More "on edge". More of the man I wish I were not. One desperately in need to see God move on my behalf. And you need Him to do the same for you.
Deacons, church admins, staffers... trust in God. Let Him complete the good work that He has begun in you. He'll show you where and when He needs you. But if you're getting tired and burnt, perhaps something is amiss.
Pray this #deaconThursday, that rest would be found in Christ. May God forgive those who have tried to hard and perhaps missed the mark and plan God has because we've tried to force things rather than allowing God time to work. Pray for rejuvenation and strengthening as people find peace and comfort in the presence of God. May they stand in confidence as they place their trust in Him anew and may the resist the temptation to revert back to old efforts and strategies as though God isn't at work. Pray a renewed commitment of faith, to walk in His promises, stand in His righteousness, trust in His timing and testify of His goodness and faithfulness.
For the hand of God is sovereign
While the whole body of man is dust.
And our lives, but a moment of breath.
While God, is the breath of Life.
Let us live as though we are His,
For His glory and honor.
I heard a powerful sermon yesterday morning regarding Judas and his place in the inner circle of Christ' ministry. It's utterly amazing, just how many chances Jesus gave Judas; knowing from the beginning and dropping hints of what was in Judas' heart. With every instance, you can almost hear the hope in Jesus voice that Judas would come forth and come clean.
Yet even as they sat at the Last Supper, John is sits at Christ' side; leaning in towards His bosom. Judas sits on the other side of Christ... leaning away. He was present with Christ; but not "with" Christ. They both knew Judas' heart, yet Jesus even at dinner, continued to extend the invitation to Judas.
What a phenomenon... to be a part of Jesus ministry and yet follow through with your betrayal of Him, even turning down opportunities to accept grace before actually committing the act. Clearly, God knew Judas' heart.
At one point, early in the message, the pastor mentions where Judas' mind was focused. It was on self and not the Cross.
Which got me thinking... about how many are involved in various levels of ministry within the church; even to the point of staff and deacon's (pastor's inner circle) and yet while with them, are not truly "with" them. There is some other, often selfish reason for their involvement.
They are cross in thinking rather than Cross-thinking.
It's an easy enough trap to fall into, but nevertheless, an incredibly dangerous one... especially for someone like Judas' who refused the grace and forgiveness of Christ at numerous points in time.
On this #deaconThursday, let's pray for those in church leadership. May their motives and reasons for being involved indeed be, that they are truly Cross-minded. Pray selfish gain, greed and the like would be far from their hearts and minds. Pray that they, along with their pastors, work towards the plans and purposes God has called them to with an eternal perspective and the advancement of the Gospel. May their remain a sensitivity not only towards the things of God, but towards God Himself; and the power of the Holy Spirit to continue to move and draw them closer to His presence and grace. May that not pass over the opportunity to stand clean before Christ.
Committed to the cause of Christ,
Thoughts of betrayal far from theirs hearts and minds.
Ready to extend grace and receive grace in the midst of failure;
That God would accomplish the miraculous in all circumstances.
For His glory alone.
In totally un-related to ministry news, O.J. Simpson will sit in front of the parole board today, awaiting if he will be let out early, after serving 9 years of a 33-year sentence. A local Christian talk show host was talking on air, how it would be hard for the parole board to pass the opportunity to have him continue his time. Was it justice catching up with him, for not having served after the criminal trial? Perhaps.
But it brings up the topic of restoration.
A friend posted Romans 4:7 yesterday, which talks about the joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sins are put out of sight. Upon reading it, I replied that it's amazing, that the verse gives definition to the concept of confession. For it is only sin that is confessed that God puts out of sight. Otherwise, unconfessed sin has a way of coming to the forefront of our lives and calling us out.
Consider David with Bathsheba and Uriah. Plenty of opportunities to come clean, yet it doesn't hit him until the prophet Nathan tells him a story. David is outraged, until he has his light-bulb moment.
We often hear what happens to church leaders, especially ones of prominence, who find themselves in places of trouble. And yet, as I stood in service last night, it's not like deacons and other church staff people aren't prone to behaviors and situations which could land them in trouble. With the church, denomination, congregation, family or community. Morally, ethically, financially... the situations are endless. There are usually systems in place to help pastors that are in trouble in such circumstances... but for staff and deacons; their positions and offices could just very well be closed for good. And what are the options for healing and restoration and stepping back into the position (or a similar one to what they held)? Well, I don't know that they are all that frequent. Of course, they are rarely heard of, so perhaps they are quite frequent. The aftermath and the gap that is created by their departure can be just as disruptive as it is when a pastor is involved.
Let's pray, this #deaconThursday, for those church leaders and operations personnel that are in places of difficulty and perhaps dealing with an unconfessed sin of a problematic and damaging nature. May God do a work in their lives that would bring healing and restoration as they look to Him and go through the process of forgiveness and redemption; whatever that may look like. Pray for the churches and ministries that are affected from these circumstances. May God give them wisdom and clarity as they move forward. Pray that families and churches would not have to pay the price that Israel witnessed in King David's life following the revelation by Nathan. Pray that church leadership would be quick to bring to light unconfessed sin to the throne of grace, with the expediency and sincerity that pastors wish the congregation members would express in their lives.
Made clean through confession.
By the power of God
And the washing of His Word
Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
For the glory of God.
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
It's been driving me nuts since about midday, yesterday afternoon... that I can't remember whose sermon was playing on the radio when this statement was made.
"Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is get a good night's rest."
He went on to talk about how we are dispensable. So often and easily we think that we are not; that we have to do it all or it won't get done. Like nobody else would pick up the pieces if we weren't already struggling to maintain an oversized load that our frame was not meant to carry.
Fast forward to last night, at the close of Pastor's devotional on wisdom. He compares Samson, who did not heed the words of his mother and father, to that of Moses in the conversation with his Father-in-law, Jethro. Having the benefit of perspective from a few more years experience, he says Moses struggling to judge the people and offers his advice.
"You'll burnout out if you keep this up. Why don't you do this instead?" Fortunately for Moses, he heeded the advice, but more importantly, he unburdened himself from a load that was too much. He chose people who were capable of helping to handle it and freed himself to focus on those matters where his strength could be exercised, rather than his life exhausted.
In like spirit, pray this #deaconThursday for those in church operations who need a good rest. May God rejuvenate and refresh them; body, mind, soul and spirit. Pray God would break up the unhealthy pressure and drive that is taking them down the road to burnout. May the Holy Spirit bring winds of refreshing and perspective; with new ways of thinking and handling matters that will help manage the load. Pray for people to come along side and help carry the load as well; capable, that others may be more effective and efficiently utilized.
For many hands make the work light.
That the work would not be a burden that leads to burnout
But that we would labor together in Christ, joyfully with honor.
For the glory of God
For the advancement of the Gospel.
I'm pretty certain that everyone has those days (and mornings, especially) that you just can't seem to engage. Situations have been discussed. Opinions have been offered. Facts have been presented. Ground work has been laid. Observations have been made.
You know there is more work to do and things that need to be said, but you find yourself in a place of pause.
You question what you are doing.
Maybe doubt encroaches.
The mind begins to wander.
Speculation starts to infiltrate.
Shortly thereafter, fear and anxiety make their grand entrance.
How thick headed are we? About as thick as Jesus' disciples! All throughout His ministry, He shared, don't be afraid. And after His resurrection, during the appearances before His ascension, He is still telling them the same thing... don't be afraid.
No matter where we find ourselves; no matter our energy levels or engagement quotient; whether we have the wisdom and answers or are seemingly quiet and patient, may today be a day of peace and rest in Christ, whereby our trust in Him is reaffirmed. If for no other reason, than His ways and thoughts are higher and greater than ours, than we can ask or imagine.
Pray this #deaconThursday, for those that are struggling... perhaps feeling restless or out of place. Indeed, may the place their trust in you once again and resolve to remain in the peace of our presence, rather than the anxiety of the unknown. May you grant to them a clarity of mind and a determination of heart in the direction you would have for them to move and live and have their being. Pray for the courage and boldness to ask; as we are reminded we have not because we ask not. May they ask in alignment with the will and Word of God. Pray these times of vulnerability would not give way to the enemy to gain a foothold within them; but they would hold on strong to the faith in Christ of which they profess.
Resolute in faith.
Fearless in living it out.
Trusting in God when He can't be traced.
For His thoughts and plans towards us are good.
To bring about glory to His name.
While discussing life with a friend yesterday, he mentioned something very profound. It's the perspective that if you feel as though you are in the wilderness, then perhaps God is building an awareness regarding details. For what is there in the wilderness on which to focus?
It's a similar awareness that shepherds have while tending sheep. A keen sense of awareness of the details of their surroundings. One of the preachers that I try to catch on the radio, has been going through the 7 "I AM" statements of Christ, from the book of John. Jesus moves from being the Shepherd, to being the Good Shepherd. He expounded on the point that Christ makes, that when trouble comes; when the wolf readies for an attack, the hired hands will take off. Yet the shepherd, takes ownership and stands his ground.
And I considered how often that happens within church operations. Such in these positions aren't leading the church, but they are hired to support the church. Much like in any organization or company, they aren't invested, financially or emotional into the success of has been built as the person who has built it, and poured their heart, life and soul into the process.
Thus when trouble comes; when things aren't going right or well... they may soon be out the door. Who will help protect and guard against the attack? Those who do will be few in number.
So, let's pray, this #deaconThursday for church operations and staff. May they be encouraged to stand firm and strong, when things get difficult within the ministry. Pray God would strengthen their resolve to the work of the Lord and the ministry. May God grant them clarity and insight, especially for those who feel as though they are in wilderness places. Pray for perspective and the ability to focus on better handling the details of life. May they be victorious against the attacks of the enemy.
For the advancement of the cause of Christ.
For the glory of God.
I listened to a great sermon yesterday on Barnabas, son of encouragement. And of course, tied into the story is the disagreement that he has with Paul, on their missionary journey. Barnabas wants to extend grace to John Mark, who couldn't handle the first trip and Paul says, no, to the thought of John Mark accompanying them on the second trip. Such was their "sharp disagreement", that they parted ways.
However, their second trip turned into a split trip; essentially doubling their efforts and their reach, as Barnabas and Mark went one way and Paul connected with Silas, and when another way.
Then, later in the day, the local Christian talk show host spent the final 90 minutes of his 4 hour show, having "disagreement day", allowing callers to say, I agree with you for the most part, except..."
Disagreements can be tricky and difficult conversations to navigate, especially in ministry. Yet as the radio personality stated, they help to define and refine our arguments and points of view. They increase our understanding and hopefully lead us that much closer to the truth. They do have their place, in the process of "iron sharpening iron".
Conflict serves us well, if we handle it properly. There my be times where agreeing to disagree is an acceptable outcome. There will be other times, where that is not enough and a parting of ways is in order. Whatever the circumstances, wisdom and discernment levels are high as is the need to retain them. And even in the break-aways, God has plans and purposes to accomplish His will through our efforts, such that the conflict may be the only way that God's will is carried out.
Thus, on this #deaconThursday, let's pray for churches struggling to navigate conflict and disagreements. May grace and understanding abound and cover the conversations. Pray for wisdom as they work through differences. May God accomplish the miraculous, even in times of parting ways. May such outcomes not give way to bitterness and anger. Pray for churches that have been damaged and destroyed by sharp disagreements. May they experience a healing and restoration in their community and be empowered to greater pursue God and His purposes for their church.
That even disagreements would not hinder
The process and work of the Holy Spirit
And communication of the Gospel of Christ.
For the glory of God.
We've all had our moments.
We all want to be "in the know". We think we deserve to be; we ought to be; we secretly hope that we will be... whether the outcome of the situation impacts us directly or we're just wanting to know how things will turn out in the aftermath, we spend a lot of time in analysis and conversation rather than simply waiting for events to unfold.
Commentary and critics abound...
... about an investigation on the national-political scene
... about the member make-up of our favorite rock band and any changes that may occur
... about the "personal" reasons an athlete withdraws from an event
We simply can't seem to avoid the temptation to "weigh in" on a matter. Or at least inquire as to what's going on. Even innocently enough... "what's going on with x, y, or z co-worker?"
Within the church body, this can be even more frustrating and detrimental than any other arena of life.
Rumors and gossip have the greatest potential to become the millstones that will weigh down and defeat a congregation when enough people decide it's more important to "weigh in" rather than "wait & see" the outcome for itself.
I understand; it's frustrating at times to be looking at seems through the front window. But there's just way too much going on to allow the unknown to stress us out until there is an outcome to be dealt with and worked through. Sometimes you just have to truth the one who is "in the room".
So will you pray with me? On this #deaconThursday, pray for those "in the room"; may God grant them wisdom and direction in the decisions they face and work through the challenges of negotiating the when, where, why and how and with whom they should go. May churches ride themselves of the rumor mills and gossip trains; that the body of Christ would be a community of discernment; of understanding and of principle. Pray for churches that are in turmoil and trouble; where opinions abound and the commentary and critics seem endless... may a clarity come over those circumstances, as well as a peace to people's hearts and minds. May they not spiral out of control in confusion, but be controlled by the Spirit into a clear path of healing and restoration for the plans and purposes God has in store for them.
May God be "in the room".
Not that he would bless our decisions,
But that He would direct our steps
And illuminate our paths.
To bring us out of trouble..
To keep us out in the first place.
For His glory and honor.
During the course of two separate radio programs yesterday, different pastors during discussion heaven, mentioned that there will be "work" in heaven. We will have things to do, in service to Almighty God. Which if you think about it, makes sense, because even in the Garden, before sin entered the picture, Adam had stuff to do. Sin simply made the work live up to it's name.
In between the two, though, I happened upon a conservative Christian, political talk show and during her discussion on current events, mentioned the phrase of "serving at the pleasure of the President." I had to chuckle, as it reminded me of the episode in The West Wing, where all the senior staff respond to the President, sharing that sentiment in carrying out their duties.
And on this #deaconThursday, it took me back to the relationship between church operations and counsel and the Pastors as well as the entirety of ministry and how they approach the mission and calling that God has placed upon their community of believers.
It's easy to assert our rights when situations get frustrating. It's easy to want to make our voices heard and contribute our ideas in hopes of making things better (or at the very least, making our jobs easier) It's the day in which we live.
Yet, Scripture reminds us, that whatever we do, to do it as unto the Lord.
With all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Our lives are not our own... we were bought with a price.
We are to rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all things.
I'll be the first to admit; having and keeping such an attitude is difficult. It's a daily process. It's an intentional decision. It's a constant awareness. I can't help but think, that if we focused on serving at the pleasure of God that things would go much better for us as we respond and carry out our work with those around us and those in authority over us. And all the more, for those in ministry, as theirs is directly and prominently placed at the forefront of kingdom-work.
Thanks for joining me again, this #deaconThursday. Let's pray for those burnt-out from ministry, who have lost the joy of service. May God rekindle the passion and love for people and the body of Christ. Pray for healing and restoration over whatever situations and decisions have transpired that have taken them out spiritually and emotionally. Pray for strength for those who are getting tired and worn down. May a spirit of refreshing and rejuvenation fall upon them afresh. Pray for new energy and new excitement; may a fresh anointing come over them as they recommit and rededicate their lives in service to the kingdom of God and the advancement of the Gospel on Earth.
God help us all
That regardless of the name on our paycheck
May we go about our day as working for you.
For indeed, you created us.
You have a plan and purpose for our lives.
We live to seek you and glorify you in all we do
Even when we miss the mark by miles.
Do what only You can do
As we are faithful in the work before us.
Over the past few weeks, I've had opportunity to listen to a number of great preachers deliver some incredibly powerful sermons. Tossed in to the mix have been a number of episodes of a radio show called "Equipped with Chris Brooks". He can be found on the Moody Radio Network and I've thoroughly enjoyed the shows that I've heard so far as well as the interviews and conversations he has engaged in along the way.
Yesterday, he interviewed John Stonestreet, whose latest book is titled A Practical Guide To Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World.
Over the course of the interview, Christ fielded a phone call from a listener, who shared with them the situation she is facing with her daughter, who is struggling with an incredibly difficult and controversial topic facing our culture... gender identity.
I know... you're wanting to know what this has to do with #pray4pastors and #deaconThursday. Well, we're here.
During their conversation with her, John mentioned having a similar conversation with a woman who facing the same situation with her child. Of course, John gave some of the same advice, which at the top of the list, was to continue to pray. But then he shared with the caller, the question he posed to this other mom. Are you getting any support from your church?
The mom looked at John, as if to say, are you kidding me? She responded verbally, with:
"Oh, I could never tell my church." They wouldn't know what to do. As if she would be ousted or shunned if anyone at church knew this was the situation she was facing on the home-front.
As I've stated in the past, deacons and church administrators and staff are on the front lines of both the church and the community. People in these positions, fielding phone calls and other conversations literally have their fingers on the pulse of what is going on with families and people in need... dare, I say, perhaps more-so than the pastors themselves. It's exciting to see what churches are accomplishing through "life groups" and small groups, helping people to connect at deeper levels of faith and fellowship, but at the same time, such a response is a pretty strong indictment against a church... both for the concern that love and grace would not be extended at such a challenging time and/or that the church is not equipped to help people through such a process and conversation on any level, let alone spiritual.
I don't know how to explain this dichotomy?
We want to the church to reach out to the lost and needy and share with them, that their brokenness is the result of Jesus not being present in their life, but then after they come to faith in Christ, they don't feel comfortable in coming to the people within the church and asking for assistance with the brokenness that exists in other areas of life as they work through their faith.
Does this make sense? Do you see the problem? What's the solution? Prayer... for starters.
As we embark on this first #deaconThursday of the third year of daily praying for pastors, will you join me once again? Pray that those in these critical church positions would indeed have the pulse on the church and the needs of the people, both inside and outside the four walls. Pray for wisdom and guidance as they converse and help people navigate life's difficulties. Pray that they would be equipped with resources and tools that will be practical and effective; that would help bring them through the challenge rather than feeling as though the battle will never end. May the church never forget, that everyone under the roof is in various states of repair and rebuilding by the Hand of God.
None of us are complete, fully-restored projects.
For God is at work in all of us.
Not making mistakes;
But using every detail and decision
To accomplish His purposes
That He may be glorified
In every life and every day that is nothing short of a miracle.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.