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.





Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Are We Really Going to Bet it All?



"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.”   John 15:10



         In the world of Texas-Holdem Poker and other such card games, there is a term “all in”.  This term simply means that no matter what the cards reveal, the player is willing to bet all of their money (chips) that they will win. It is one of the most dangerous moves a player can decide to make because it comes with the greatest risk. However, if it pays off for the player and they win, it will yield a great reward.

         Being a Disciple of Christ is slightly different, in that, you are guaranteed to win.  However, even being a Disciple of Christ comes with a risk.  You are betting everything on Jesus and believe that He will keep His word.  You might be wondering, but if there is a guarantee, how can there be a risk? What is there to lose? The risk is that you may lose your “friends,” you may lose your job and you may even lose your life.  While those risks aren’t guaranteed, what is guaranteed is that you will lose who you were and become who Jesus wants you to be.

         It seems that modern day Christians (and this isn’t really that far off from biblical Christians) struggle with being “all in”.  We want to bet a chip here and there, unsure of whether or not the hand that we hold is going to pay off.  We want assurances that the life we are going to live will be easy.  We want to know that when things get tough, someone else will jump in and take care of it for us.   We want to play, but we aren’t all in.

        Maturity as a Christian comes from betting it all. Put all your chips on the table. All your eggs in His basket.  Devote your life to following Jesus’ example and don’t fold your hand at the first sign of difficulty. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

4 Ways Christians are not Disicples


                     And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the  
                                             breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42


In the pages of the New Testament Jesus is quoted as saying, "follow me" to various people.  Sometimes He is speaking for them to follow him at that moment and other times He is speaking to them eternally. Ultimately all of his directives have eternal ramifications and from this, we can surmise that Jesus is calling us to follow his actions, character, and way of life. To follow Jesus truly, means we are acting like Him, copying his attitude, actions and lifestyle.  Another word for this is, "disciple".  We have been called to be his disciples, but the more time I spend in the ministry, the less disciples and disciple-makers I seem to find.

Here are a few ways that believers in Christ are not living as true disciples:


1) Devotion to Teaching
                 Although a person may attend church, even regularly (twice or more a month) being devoted to teaching is not just sitting in the sanctuary and listening to the preacher.  Nor is it just sitting in the Sunday School or Small Group room and following along in a study guide. I have found that many people, especially millennials, are devoted to attendance (and even that can be sporadic at times) but being devoted to the teaching means studying it during the week. Whether it is preparation for the class, a review of material covered, or both, there needs to be more devotion to the Word of God to truly be a disciple.

2) Devotion to Fellowship
               Some would argue that fellowship is not an issue in the church.  I would suggest that biblical fellowship is missing and this is what it looks like. Gathering with the saints of all ages, races, backgrounds, etc, not just "us four and no more."  It is easy to attend church with a desire to see your friends and there is nothing wrong with this, unless the only fellowship you do is with the people in your inner circle.  The church is the family of God and we must begin to act like it.Oh! And no gossiping allowed.

3) Actively Participating in Ministry 
               This is a tough one for me to address, simply because it is one of the single most frustrating things I have seen in my short nine years of ministry.  However, it is glaring at us from across the denominational spectrum.  For many, simply going to church should be enough.  I mean, how dare the pastor expect us to be active and use our God given gifts and talents for the ministry. It's not like the pastor is supposed to equip us for ministry, why would he dare suggest such nonsense. /sarcasm off.  We need a lot more doers of the Word and a lot less talkers about what they are going to do.

4) Making Other Disciples
               I am starting to understand why it seems there are so few workers for the harvest. It must be because the actual number of disciples is relatively small to begin with or at least in comparison to the number of self-proclaimed Christians. There must be follow up and action, a desire to see the lost come to know the Lord as savior. Yet, sadly enough, I recently heard a statistic that stated about 92% of people who considered themselves Evangelical Christians either had no plan or definitively were not going to share the Gospel with someone in the next year. A sad statistic, indeed.


You might wonder why "prayer" didn't make the list. The simple answer is, I don't know who is praying or who isn't.  At least, not as easily as these four. What are your thoughts?