Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Most Dangerous Body Part

Proverbs 18:21 KJV
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
     I remember a friend of mine from many years ago quoting Proverbs 18:21 to me. It was not a Bible drill nor was he showing me how good he was at reciting Bible verses.  He was actually rebuking me with the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17)
     He may not remember doing this, but I hope to always remember his strength and courage when he told me simply to watch my mouth because I had the ability to either speak good into people's lives or speak bad, and at the time, I was speaking bad. 
    In the church I have often seen this issue arise because of familiarity.  People spend so much time together and become so close that before long they begin sharing their deep feelings with each other.  If used wisely, this is both productive and beneficial for believers. However, used unwisely, it can undo the work that God has been doing. It can hurt the testimony of believers as they strive to reach the lost and unchurched community around them. And it can split a church in a fraction of the time that it took to bring the church together. 
    Proverbs 12:18 says, The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Likewise, James wrote in James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

   The tamed tongue is not just about "not hurting people," it is also about honoring the very God who plucked the believer out of the pit through Jesus Christ. It is about recognizing the evil that the Devil wants to use our tongue for (James 3:8) and resisting his evil plan to use us against the body of Christ.

    Knowing how the enemy works is knowing that as people grow closer together and begin sharing their lives with each other, the enemy is watching, ready to use these growing relationships to cause division.  As believers, we must be ready for this and know what the tactic of the enemy is.  We must commit to speaking life into everyone and not death. We must live to honor God and his Son with our words, thoughts and deeds.  For if we choose not to, plainly put, we cross the line from supporting God's work to supporting the work of the enemy. 

   In the modern church, which many local assemblies total less that 100 on a given Sunday, it does not take long for the tongues of a few to tear down the work of the Holy Spirit.  That is why I want to encourage everyone to repent of things they have said. Extend grace and forgiveness to those who have said things about them. And honor the Lord with a mission to seek the Lost and share Christ with them.  That's the mission of the church and that's the life that should be flowing from our tongues. 

Chester Proctor, Pastor
Smith Street Baptist Church, Vidalia, Georgia


Thursday, December 15, 2016

5 Reasons Pastors (or anyone else) Should Not Threaten to Quit

"I quit!"
"I'm not doing this anymore."
"You can find someone else to take care of this!"

We've all been there.  We have either been so stressed, frustrated or both and we just wanted to scream at the top of our lungs the old song title, "Take this job and shove it!"  Perhaps quitting is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it is done with a lot of prayer, preparation and in a loving a graceful way.  But, for those of you (and me!) who have been frustrated enough to say it, without meaning it, here are 5 reasons you might want to rethink letting those words leave your mouth.

5) People Resent It
           Depending on how close you are with someone, and whether or not that person is your boss, you may be able to get away with it once or twice. But eventually, those working with you are going to resent your continued threats.  You may not mean it. You may simply be venting, but eventually those you continue to threaten with this, will grow weary of hearing you complain. Be a fixer, not a griper.  Don't be that person who gives off the appearance of one who throws in the towel when things get tough.  If you're not a quitter, don't make yourself sound like one. 

4) Others Aren't Doing It
          Those people you keep saying this to are struggling as well. No one is always happy with their job. No one is always happy in their volunteer situation.  Face it, no one is always happy, period.  However, for those that hear you "quit" every time things get tough, they might be growing tired of hearing it because while they feel the same way at times, they are working to overcome that feeling. If you're not careful, someone might tell you to either "grow up" or "go ahead and quit."

3) It is the Wrong Response
           If you are a Christian, you are by definition, an overcomer.  You are one who rises up on the wings of eagles. You stand tall above the mountains and you face those giants with nothing more than a sling and a stone.  Because of Christ in you, there is nothing that can defeat you permanently.  Not even your difficult circumstances. However, if quitting is always your first response (even if you don't really mean it when you say it) it takes the place of where your thoughts should be, and that is on the way Jesus would handle it.  Getting mad, frustrated, or upset are normal and often times righteous emotions.  Threatening to take your ball and go home because you didn't get your way, is not. If you continue to do this, you might need to invest in a "crying room," that is, if you are not on a campus that offers them already.

2) It is Childish
            As an ambassador of Christ, we are called to react to struggles with faith and courage.  Paul clearly told us that we are not to act like children, because we are maturing Christians who must live out our faith in Christ every day.  If others are watching your example and you threaten to jump ship when things get tough or your feelings get hurt, what kind of example are you setting?

1) It's Manipulative
           I often wonder if we, as Christians, realize how many times we are being manipulative when we want to get our way.  This is a sobering thought, but any time we try to influence someone else by using guilt, threats, etc we are lowering ourselves to the tactics of the enemy. We cannot do that if we are ambassadors of Jesus.

I have struggled with this in my years and if you are struggling, it's time to make a change! What are some reasons you have for not making idle threats?

Monday, December 5, 2016

5 Things Your Pastor May Be Doing While You Sleep

Do you ever wonder "just what does my pastor do, anyway?"   It is okay, not only am I not offended by that question, I also once asked it myself.  For most of the congregation, seeing the pastor is limited to one or two hours per week and in the case of emergencies.  When this happens, it is not uncommon for people to begin questioning the role, purpose or time that the pastor spends doing, "God knows what!"

From my personal experience, and the experience of my colleagues, here are some things your pastor may be doing, while you sleep!

5) Praying

This may seem obvious, but understand that there are many times when I am up either late or early talking to God. Usually when I am up late doing this, I am doing it on behalf of someone else. Either a sick person, a suffering family, or the church as a whole.  When I am up late talking to God, it's because I can't sleep and when I can't sleep, it may be due to some issue or problem that is weighing on me, either personally or on behalf of others.

4) Visiting

You might be wondering, "who would my pastor be visiting while I am sleeping?"  I would venture to say that more often than not if your pastor is visiting someone late, it is either at a hospital, hospice, or the bed of someone who is about to die. I can't tell you the many times I have gotten up from dinner because the phone rang, kissed my wife and kids goodbye and ran off to the hospital or somebody's home in an emergency.  Your pastor's family will most likely understand this demand on him, but don't be fooled into thinking that it doesn't cost him valuable time with them.  If his family doesn't understand, it may cost him more than you would ever imagine.

3) Reading

I used to believe that being a full-time vocational pastor meant I would have countless hours to sit in my office and read. That is usually not the case.  There are times that I can shut my door and enjoy a good book that helps me become a better pastor, leader, preacher, teacher, scholar, etc.  However, I can't remember the last time I read, at the office, uninterrupted and don't try and do it a coffee shop or restaurant in a small town.  That is an invitation for interruption.  No, the majority of my seminary work (before I graduated), Bible reading, personal development, etc happens after my family has fallen asleep for the night.  Your pastor may be up for hours, enjoying the quiet time that he finally has to sit down and grow, himself.

 2) Thinking

After everyone is asleep and the house is quiet, I tend to do a lot of thinking.  I think about the day today and the day tomorrow. I think about all the things I did wrong and how I could go about them a different way. I think about what is coming in the days, weeks and even months to come. I think about sermons, illustrations, families, tragedies, celebrations, birthdays, the pile on my desk, my family, am I being a good husband, father, friend, the members who are mad with me and the members who are not, and the list goes on and on.  You see, just like many of you, there isn't time to think about all of this during the day, so it gets pushed to the night.

1) Supporting Friends

The statistics are staggeringly discouraging when you look at the number of pastors who either leave the ministry altogether.  Then there are those whose lives fall apart because they are unable to juggle and manage the expectations of their church.  Sadly, a high statistic is those who deal with severe depression and even suicide.  It is sad that among the anointed, gifted, called by God, pastors of our nation, so many are under attack from within the four walls they call their second home.  There have been many times that I've been up late either giving support to another pastor or getting it myself.  Being a pastor can be lonely. There aren't many people who will be your friends and if you've done this long enough, you put up walls to protect yourself. 

Don't get me wrong. On my worst day (although I would never admit this on my worst day), being a pastor is a wonderful and rewarding calling. I love what I do and there is no doubt in my mind that God anointed me for this very calling. I also realize that there are many other jobs out there, some of which you don't get paid well, work in horrible conditions, and never know if you're coming home or not (like our law enforcement officers).  Just remember, even though you don't always see what your pastor is doing, chances are, your pastor is carrying on with his duties as if their boss were watching them carefully, because after all, He is always watching.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 25th: Church or No Church?

As December 25th approaches, a glance at the calendar will remind you that this Christmas falls on a Sunday.  While this may seem exciting for the average church attender, it raises some interesting questions among smaller congregations and can even become a point of contention between local churches.  The question?  "do we have service on Sunday or cancel it?"

At the sound of this, some of you may be appalled!  You might think, "why wouldn't we have church on Christmas? This is perfect!"  However, just as quickly as that thought came to reader's minds, other readers may be thinking something quite opposite. "Whew! One less thing to do on Christmas" or "now we can go visit Aunt Lula Bell without feeling guilty for not going to church."

The problem with this question is that it comes down to preference and not biblical mandate.  Sure, it almost sounds sacrilegious to not have service on Christ's birthday. Well, that is until someone points out that Christ wasn't actually born on December 25th and we are simply celebrating it that day.  It begs the questions, "why can't we celebrate it on Dec 4th, or what about every day all year long?"  You could also get into a discussion about the pagan celebration of the winter solstice and how Christians joined pagan roots with the timing of the celebration, but that's for another day.

On the other side of this issue, at least for me, is the evangelism card. Let's face it, some people only go to church on Christmas and Easter. These people, while perhaps nice enough, are not walking as closely with the Lord as they could (then again, who is?).  If the church doors are closed on Christmas day, does this prevent a possible outreach opportunity for those who only show up twice a year? Perhaps. With the doors open, there is much more potential to reach someone, than with the doors closed.

So what is a church to do?   I believe it comes down to a Romans 14 issue.  It definitely is not a biblical mandated issue.  So the answer must be decided by each individual church's (or denominations) leadership.  That's really all we can say about this without getting caught up in our opinions.

What about the congregations?

Assuming your church is not having services and you aren't traveling or spending time with family, or maybe you are but you want to attend church first, I suggest visiting another church. Despite what some insecure pastors might think, you haven't committed "church adultery" because you were never married to the church. You are the church and the church is married to Christ. Besides, your church is closed that day.

So find a church that is open on December 25th and enjoy celebrating the birth of Christ with like minded saints.

Or,get up that morning and read the Christmas story with your family directly from the inspired Word of God.

Whatever you do this Christmas, make it something that will glorify the King, not divide His children.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Actions of a Few

Mark 10:45 says: "For even the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many."

This verse is a reminder to us that Jesus came and lowered himself to the lowest point possible, a sacrifice for others' sins. In the wake of more civil disobedience and unrest you may be tempted to take sides. As I watched the news break last night, I was tempted to take both sides. I found myself angry at the protesters and looters who were violent and not assembling peacefully, and then I found myself hurting for the families of those who lost loved ones.

This verse out of Mark reminds us that as Christians we are to be servants at all costs. What this means for us today is that instead of taking sides and pointing fingers, today can be the day that we show others we will not be divided by the Enemy, but instead we will rise up in the midst of turmoil and love each other the way God has instructed us to.

This morning my 11 year old and I were watching the news and they played a clip of a black man yelling that "all white people are the devil." Andrew got upset at this and I muted the TV and told him that was the opinion of one angry black person, not every black person and that we can't judge an entire race on the actions of a few. In his innocent eyes, I could tell he was trying to understand, but all he really knew was a black man called him the devil and it hurt him deeply.

So you've been hurt by racism....believe it or not, so have I. I remember it happening more than once as a kid and then again as a young adult. That's still no excuse for me to lump the actions of a few into the group of many. Instead, I am to emulate the love of Jesus, who died for everyone.
If your attempts to show love to others aren't received, don't fret. Your motivation isn't their receptiveness, it is your love for the Father that motivates you. Share a smile, open a door, offer a compliment and do it with the love of Christ flowing from your inner soul.

Be encouraged, by being a servant to the King!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pastor's Book Club - Pastor's Pick September 2016

In my first blog post edition of "Pastor's Pick" I am sharing a book that I have had on my Kindle for nearly two months.  I picked it up while doing a study with our men from the series 33 Authentic Manhood.  In this study (Volume 1) it encouraged us as men, to invest not into just one area or role of our life, but those that are most important.  As a husband (and father) I wanted to seriously invest in my marriage. I would not suggest that Heather and I have a bad marriage, but rather quite the contrary, however, I know that there is always room for improvement (on her part!.....Just kidding!) 

As a man chasing after God and my wife, I began searching for a book that would speak to men like men speak to each other.  As a youth pastor, 10 years ago, I read The Purpose Driven Youth Group and have since passed it on as a recommendation to others.   When I came across this book, it was the name recognition of Doug Fields that led me (and of course the Holy Spirit) to download the sample. Within minutes I was hooked and downloaded the book so I could read it.

Since then, our church has purchased ten that are available for members/visitors/interested parties to easily purchase themselves. Whether you get this book because you are going to be a husband or because you want to be a better husband, get it with the intention of simply putting these truths into practice. I love to read, and I really loved reading this. I hope you will consider getting this, and that's my Pastor's Pick for the month of September!


Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Thorn in the Flesh

As I write today's blog post, I am sitting in my recliner with a heating pad on my neck and back.  I have not kept it a secret that I hurt most of the time. Usually I can function without being hindered by the pain, but when I am hindered, it is serious. I realize that there are many people who have it way worse than I.  I don't pretend otherwise, but with that being said, this is my story.

In 2009 I was diagnosed with Advanced Spinal Stenosis and Advanced Degenerative Disc Disease.  Since then I have had two major back surgeries to correct damage in my L4/L5 and L5/S1 discs. The symptoms include;

Numbness in my left leg and foot
Pain in the left leg
Pain radiating in my left hip and down my left leg
Inability to walk/weakness in left leg
Constant pain
Growing weakness in left arm, hands and in extreme cases the entire left side of my body.

After my second surgery, and about 5 months of terrible leg/nerve pain it began to ease up.  At the end of last year, I began to experience neck pain. Just like before, we started out with the X-Ray (insurance requirement, even though it never shows anything)  followed by the MRI to find out that yet another disc was herniated, this one in my neck (C3/C4).  Although the pain was intense at times, the disc was yet to impinge on the spinal column and thus physical therapy was prescribed.  For the most part, PT helped to ease the pain, by creating more pain. I know, it sounds crazy, but even that was short lived. After about 10 weeks of therapy, the pain had only decreased slightly and was never fully gone.

Someone suggested the acupuncturist, to which I was ready to try anything.  I was surprised when after 3 sessions/weeks, the pain was all but gone.  I could live with it and at times I didn't even notice it.  It was a tremendous  blessing and I was able to put off surgery for six months.

However, here we are in September and it has returned angrier than ever.  Another two sessions, with a third on the way and the best relief I can hope for is 6 days.  Additionally, I have noticed a spot in my T-Spine that hurts as if someone has hit me with a hammer.  It burns and runs down into my lower back, causing the original symptoms, pre-surgeries 1 and 2, to return.

Just this morning I had to handle making sure someone (more than one) could cover at church. I really don't like missing church and when I don't get to preach, I feel down.  Coupled with the chronic pain and discomfort that seems to stay like an unwelcome guest, I grow weary of the condition that I feel is stealing my life away.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV)

Although verses like Micah 6:8 and Ephesians 2:8-9 have been my life verses, over the last few years, 2 Cor 12:9 has become a verse I live out each day.  

Before you ask, we have run the first round of X-Rays and more than likely will be headed down the road of regular routine with the final destination being the operating table.  At 34 years old, I can't do the things that many others can, without ending up on my back or in a chair for days on end. In extreme cases, I have been in a wheelchair and heavily medicated.  There is no telling how much of my life I can't remember or was in a medicated stupor for.  Tens of thousands of dollars have piled up in medical bills and it seems as if tens of thousands more will do the same.

As I continue to walk down this road, I will remember two things:

1) My troubles, though my own, are not as bad as many other's
2) His Grace is and always will be sufficient

You probably have a thorn in your flesh as well.  It is in our weaknesses we can boast about the strength and power of our Lord.  I offer my pain as a sacrifice and look forward to the day when I will suffer no more.  Until then, I will move slowly and work hard for there is much harvesting to be done.