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(This will meander a bit…please read it through and connect the dots)
I’ve been a pastor since 1989. Most of the pastors I am friends with genuinely love people. They sincerely care. There are other pastors that I have met that seem to be more concerned with being celebrities, but they are in the minority of my personal circles.
If my experience with other pastors is accurate, my conclusion is that pastors care about people. That means they feel things…emotional things…spiritual things…and they think about things…and are concerned about people…and situations…and potentials for danger…and possibilities for greatness…and the list goes on.
Good pastors don’t just work with their minds and bodies…they also work with their hearts. Their hearts are their most valuable asset, and perhaps their area of most vulnerability.
Good pastors are anointed men. When they speak, it can sometimes seem larger than life…and that’s because it is larger than life. There is an anointing from God upon them. When they are doing their thing, it’s other worldly (Heavenly). The Apostle Paul said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels”. The pastor is only a clay pot, at best. The treasure is Jesus, and the treasure is the Gospel message. Sometimes people confuse the treasure with the clay pot. If a pastor is really “bringing it”, some people erroneously focus on the man instead of on the treasure. There seems to be a fine line between the two.
A good pastor is an honest man, and seeks to be transparent…and he lays his heart out there…and sometimes he makes people feel like they have become his confidantes. Most people I know crave intimacy and honest relationships. A good pastor might seem to be offering that on an individual level, when all he is really doing is trying to be transparent from the pulpit and make a point about the frailty of man and the greatness of God.
(I hope you are still reading…I’m going to connect the dots soon)
A good pastor has wisdom from on high. He can counsel in many ways…sometimes from the pulpit or sometimes face to face. It can be an amazing thing to receive a word from the Lord through a pastor.
A good pastor is an encourager…he encourages people to have faith and to be everything that God intends them to be…and he sometimes genuinely believes more for a person than they believe for themselves.
A good pastor is a good listener…he isn’t in a hurry to find a solution to your problem. He knows that you are more than a problem to be solved…you are a person to be understood and loved.
A good pastor seems to be able to move forward when other seems stuck…he has navigated through his life well enough to be further ahead than he was five years ago. Paul told Timothy…”Let you progress be evident to all”. A good pastor’s progress in life is evident.
(Dot connection now follows…)
If all that is true, then here’s where it can get weird for some people and their pastor. I’ll list a few things numerically.
- Your pastor cannot be your best friend. Yes he is a good listener, and genuinely cares about you…but that doesn’t put him in the BFF status. It just doesn’t. Love between brethren is one thing…but being best friends is something altogether different. Please allow your pastor to choose his own personal friends as he continues to be genuinely friendly with as many people as he can be.
- Your pastor cannot tell you every decision to make. He has had to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling…through his own tears, doubts, disappointments, poor decisions and good choices, etc. He has failed and succeeded on his own. Now you have to do the same for yourself. He will be there to give you general counsel, and to pray for you and support you, but you have to pray and make your own decisions. Spiritual growth is costly, and there are no shortcuts. Pay the price.
- Your pastor cannot be blamed for your lack of spiritual progress. He encourages you to be all that you can be, that is true…but maybe he sees that you don’t have the calling to be the next Billy Graham, and so he gently suggests that your strengths lie elsewhere. I have heard men say that they are called to be (fill in the blank), but for the last twenty years, their pastor has held them back. If God has called you to something, no one can hold you back…but there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors. If none of your friends are affirming you in an area, maybe your strengths lie elsewhere. Don’t blame your pastor. He can’t hold you back if God has called you…he doesn’t have that kind of power…but maybe God hasn’t called you.
- Your pastor cannot be expected to choose you to be his confidante. It’s great that you care about your pastor, and want to be there for him, but please allow him to choose his own confidantes and counselors. Instead, if you sense that your pastor isn’t looking for another confidante, pray for him instead. He needs it. Let him choose his own confidantes.
- Your pastor cannot set the trajectory of your life for you. He cannot decide what you are going to be. He cannot be expected to tell you what your life purposes are in any kind of detailed sense. Every Christian is here to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, but the details of how that works out is between you and God.
Alistair Begg says, “The best of men, are men at best”. Most pastors I know wouldn’t even consider themselves the best of men. Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great British preacher said, “I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear myself preach”. Most of my pastoral friends would say the same thing.
Dear Christian…your pastor can’t do a lot of things for you, but he can do some things very well. Receive him for what he is, a pastor. If God makes it to be anything more, that’s great.
Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…
If you don’t know the story of Chicken Little, here is a brief synopsis.
The main line of the story has to do with a chicken who has an acorn fall on her head, and then proclaims “the sky is falling”. The point that I get from the story is that the chicken over-reacts to an event, and makes more of it than what it actually is.
Among the Body of Christ, there may be some that have the Chicken Little mentality regarding the re-election of Barack Hussein Obama. They might be believing that all is lost, that the nation is crumbling, and that the end is near.
In some ways I agree, but I am not wringing my hands this morning after America has re-elected Obama. I did not vote for him, and I don’t like his philosophy of how to run a country. I do believe that our nation is deteriorating on a moral level. I would not be surprised to see a total financial collapse in my lifetime. I would not be surprised if eventually the Church has to go under ground.
I worry about my children and grandchildren’s future. In many ways, life may be harder for them than it has been for me.
But…none of this should surprise or undermine the faith of the Bible believing Christian. We have been told ahead of time how things will come to a close.
1 Timothy 3:1-5a 1But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power.
If you are a Bible believing Christian, you have been taught that such things will increasingly come to pass as time goes on. Election 2012 should not shake you, if you view the results as lining up with this passage.
Dear brethren: The church of Jesus Christ shall not fail. Jesus said so. Matthew 16:18 tells us, “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it“.
Finally, I direct your hearts to this incredible passage in Ephesians. Take time today to think on this passage. Take it in deeply. It is an amazing truth.
Ephesians 1:15-23 15Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,21far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.22And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
May I invite you to read my sermon notes on this passage? They can be found here. God’s great power is working in us, His people, His church.
If, like Chicken Little, we focus on the fact that “the sky is falling”, remember that we are saved by the God who owns the heavens.
Psalm 89:11 11 The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; The world and all its fullness, You have founded them.
My hope for every Follower of Jesus is that we would not be like Chicken Little, who had nothing but a sense of doom and gloom, but that we be Believers who understand the increasing severity of the world’s situation would have more hope than anyone on the planet.
Maranatha…come Lord Jesus.
Daniel 8:27 And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days; afterward I arose and went about the king’s business. I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it.
The book of Daniel contains many of the prophecies given to Daniel regarding future times, including what is called “the last days”. Daniel received many visions from God, and those truths affected him greatly. Daniel actually suffered because God gave him insights into the things that would come to pass. Daniel suffered because God revealed truth to him.
Understanding the truth of God is certainly meant to be liberating. Jesus said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. (John 8:32) Many of us have experienced the freedom which comes from knowing and embracing the truth of God.
However, not many of us consider that knowing the truth can also cost you. It can sometimes intrude upon your comfort and your sense of well-being. Knowing the truth of God can sometimes bring you great pain, great consternation, great concern, and physical discomfort.
Here are a few examples…
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
You may have a friend or loved one who is proud, arrogant, and haughty. You know that eventually, they are going to fall, and that there will be some kind of destruction, some kind of suffering. You love them, and care about them, and though you know that they need to discover humility, you hate to think of what it will take to get them to the place of humility. Your confidence in the truth of God’s word makes you sick over your friend’s impending fall.
Galatians 6:7, 8 7Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
This verse brings the Christian great concern and heartache over the spiritual condition of loved ones who constantly “sow to the flesh”. We know that corruption of some sort is guaranteed to come into their life. It may be the corruption of a sinful life, with all the fallout that happens when people reject God. It may ultimate in eternal separation from God. Because you love this person, it makes you sick to think of what their future looks like if they continue to only “sow to the flesh”.
Daniel believed what God revealed to him, and it affected him, because of the sadness and destruction of what God showed him would take place.
As a Christian, I know that God is good, merciful, loving, etc., but I also know that he is holy, and will judge the nations. Knowing the truth of God made Daniel sick. Jesus was known as “a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief”. (Isaiah 53:3) The Apostle Paul wept over those whom he described as “enemies of the cross”. (Philippians 3:18)
Those statements are not shared as an excuse for a Christian to have a sour life. There is much about which we ought to be joyful.
But my point is this: Somehow, some of us have decided that the Christian life should always be about being up, happy, joyful, about never feeling down, never being serious, etc. That is a narrow and incomplete understanding of the Christian life. I agree that there is much to be joyful about, but there is also much over which we may, at times, grieve.
So, if you find yourself sorrowful over sin, yours or someone else’s, that is appropriate and right. If God has revealed a great truth to you, it may cost you some joy to carry that truth in your heart. You may discover that you are feeling “Daniel-ish” at times…even physically sick over the sadness of certain situations in the world.
And if you work or live with a Daniel, give him/her some extra grace. They are carrying a burden that you may not understand.
Humans are on a journey called life. It is full of change, and we are wise to realize and accept that fact. If we don’t accept that change is inevitable, we get stuck, and become unhealthy and unproductive people. In fact, we can become heartsick if we do not accept change.
Christians ought to realize this as much, if not more, than any people group. The Bible declares to us that this world is not our home, therefore, we realize that someday we will die, and go to our heavenly home. (See Philippians 3:20)
For many of us, this reality is all too real, and all too painful, as we just experienced the death of our friend Petey Kim. His passing was especially shocking to our emotional systems, because he was only 36, and died suddenly. Not only that, but he was so full of life, and then suddenly, he was gone.
We who believe the Bible, also believe that Petey is alive with Jesus. Nevertheless, we suffer loss here, and that is what I wish to address. Here’s my story.
When I received the word that Petey was “down”, I had a strong sense that he had gone to be with God. As the next few hours played out, it was confirmed that Petey had departed from this life, and had moved on to the next.
My experience was to first “take care of business”, but then I moved on to grief. It was deep grief. For two days I felt as though I had been given a shot of Novocaine that numbed me from head to toe. I stayed up late looking at pictures online, reading people’s memories, etc. The sorrow was felt deeply in my body. I know that many of you experienced the same thing.
After two days, and through a set of circumstances that took place, God spoke to me strongly. It was as if God said, “Bill, I have given you two days to weep, mourn, and experience this sorrow. You have had two days of which I have asked very little of you, but it is time to ‘turn the corner’. It is time to gather yourself in Me, receive my strength, and prepare to minister to the many that are still grieving”.
God had indeed given me two days where I was away from the public, and dealing only with a few things, but the time had come to “turn the corner”. By God’s grace, I accepted that ‘word’, and re-focused. It may sound harsh and unloving to some, but I “had a job to do”. My time for deep, uninterrupted grieving was to come to an end.
Moving forward from deep grief to a “normal” life does not dishonor the memory of my friend and comrade in ministry. He and I and many of you agreed to follow Jesus, and so we are called to move forward. We still feel grief, we still cry, we still laugh when we think of Petey’s laugh. We experienced a very special season of life with a very special saint of God. Now it is time for me to reflect upon all the ways that God used Petey in my life, and to be a better man, and to follow Jesus more closely. That time will also come for you, if it hasn’t already.
We take away from the people God brings into our lives. We learn from them, we enjoy them while they are here, and then we let them go.
Sadly, I have seen some who have never accepted the fact that life is full of change. Some experience sorrow, and for some reason, never move forward in life. There is an interesting verse that deals with this truth.
Psalm 77:2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted.
We have seen people that never seem to recover from great loss, and yet the Bible tells us that this life is but a vapor, and if our life is but a vapor, then the seasons of our lives are less than vapors. The seasons of our lives are to be lived out fully, to be enjoyed, to be maximized, but then they are to be released, that we may move forward in life, and eventually, may enter into the presence of God.
Dear fellows pilgrims, we have a home in the heavens, eternal, not made by hands, but made by God. This life is a journey towards a destination. May we live for Jesus well. May we realize that the journey is not the destination, but the journey indeed has much beauty in it…and if the journey has beauty, imagine the beauty yet to be discovered when we arrive at “eternity’s shore”.
Until then, receive the words of God through Solomon…
1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
8 A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.
With the advent of the internet, blogging, and social networking, much of humanity now has the ability to share their thoughts and feelings almost instantly. That is not news to most of us.
On a humorous and slightly sarcastic note, someone wrote, “Just because you have an internet connection doesn’t mean that you have anything important to say”. I suppose “important” is in the mind of the writer, and not always the reader. I’ll leave that statement alone.
I find myself in a season of life where the words are not coming easily or clearly. There are different kinds of concerns on different fronts. There is instability from the human perspective. I am wondering about the future of certain people and not sure what to think or say.
I am purposely not going into details to try to explain things, because sometimes the words just don’t come. I am learning not to be bothered by that. If you know me, you may know some of what I am talking about, but I am not really looking for people to understand me. Please don’t feel that you need to respond.
It is a strange sensation for us humans to feel things very deeply, but not be able to clearly understand those feelings, or be able to communicate them. If we are fortunate enough to gain some clarity of thought, we then have the challenge of trying to express clearly what we are thinking, and then having the right person to share those thoughts with.
When we are struggling with the issues of life, though there can be people that are sympathetic, some dear people actually make life a bit harder for us. They try too hard to fix things. They give off the cuff advice without thinking. They offer up a quick “prayer of faith” that is more confusing than healing. We can appreciate such intentions, but sometimes we find that we avoid such help.
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Dear friends….please take 33 minutes to watch this documentary video.
It is upsetting, shocking, and compelling, but it brings forth some facts and asks some questions that need to be considered.
John 21:19-22 19This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” 20Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” 22Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
The year was 1984. I had just quit the band Undercover, which at the time, was hugely popular and used by God. I was walking through Knott’s Berry Farm on one of the Christian Music Nights they had once a year. This year, I was not on stage, as I had been previously. I was just a guy in the crowd, wandering around from stage to stage, watching the bands, getting recognized a bit, but feeling quite alone and confused.
I was wondering about what my immediate future held. I was feeling drawn to the pastoral ministry, but still feeling like I had some music left in me: songs to write, concerts to perform etc. I was walking through Knott’s hoping for and looking for some direction.
God spoke clearly to me that night. He didn’t speak to me about the particular direction of what I was supposed to do, but of how I was supposed to live. The reminder that I received was that I needed to not worry about what other people were doing and saying, or what God was doing in and through other people. My responsibility was and still is, to follow Jesus.
Fast forward 27 years. My need to follow Jesus hasn’t changed. The voices of the experts have changed a bit. I am offered much advice from pewsitters and church growth experts about how to serve Jesus. I don’t discount that some of that advice is good, but it never has and never will be better advice than what I receive from Jesus.
I still don’t need to worry about what others are doing and saying. Yes, there are some good thoughts I can learn from. There are examples of outstanding works being done that I can gather from, but the greatest advice and direction I can get needs to come to me from Jesus. He speaks through His Word, and He speaks by His spirit through impressions, thoughts, leanings, and holy hunches.
My life is unique, as is yours. No one knows what you need more than God. Listen for His voice first and foremost. Don’t just agree with me, but do it. Learn the art of quite reflection, prayer, and Bible reading. Until that is done, restrain yourself from other voices.
“You follow Me” is advice I still need to follow.
Question: “Did God create evil?”
Editor’s note- This question was asked during our recent Sunday morning gathering. Each week, we have a question and answer time after the sermon. I didn’t feel that I could explain well the answer to this question. I have copied an article by Ravi Zacharias, who answers the question well.
Answer: At first it might seem that if God created all things, then evil must have been created by God. However, evil is not a “thing” like a rock or electricity. You cannot have a jar of evil. Evil has no existence of its own; it is really the absence of good. For example, holes are real but they only exist in something else. We call the absence of dirt a hole, but it cannot be separated from the dirt. So when God created, it is true that all He created was good. One of the good things God made was creatures who had the freedom to choose good. In order to have a real choice, God had to allow there to be something besides good to choose. So, God allowed these free angels and humans to choose good or reject good (evil). When a bad relationship exists between two good things we call that evil, but it does not become a “thing” that required God to create it.
Perhaps a further illustration will help. If a person is asked, “Does cold exist?” the answer would likely be “yes.” However, this is incorrect. Cold does not exist. Cold is the absence of heat. Similarly, darkness does not exist; it is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good, or better, evil is the absence of God. God did not have to create evil, but rather only allow for the absence of good.
God did not create evil, but He does allow evil. If God had not allowed for the possibility of evil, both mankind and angels would be serving God out of obligation, not choice. He did not want “robots” that simply did what He wanted them to do because of their “programming.” God allowed for the possibility of evil so that we could genuinely have a free will and choose whether or not we wanted to serve Him.
As finite human beings, we can never fully understand an infinite God (Romans 11:33-34). Sometimes we think we understand why God is doing something, only to find out later that it was for a different purpose than we originally thought. God looks at things from a holy, eternal perspective. We look at things from a sinful, earthly, and temporal perspective. Why did God put man on earth knowing that Adam and Eve would sin and therefore bring evil, death, and suffering on all mankind? Why didn’t He just create us all and leave us in heaven where we would be perfect and without suffering? These questions cannot be adequately answered this side of eternity. What we can know is whatever God does is holy and perfect and ultimately will glorify Him. God allowed for the possibility of evil in order to give us a true choice in regards to whether we worship Him. God did not create evil, but He allowed it. If He had not allowed evil, we would be worshiping Him out of obligation, not by a choice of our own will.
Recommended Resource: Deliver Us from Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture by Ravi Zacharias.
I apologize to those who submitted questions as church last week, and which I was unable to answer. I had to make an emergency trip to Mexico, and couldn’t get to your questions. I still have them, and will try soon…
Until then, consider this nugget I discovered while studying for Colossians 3:1-4.
Colossians 3:1-4 1If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
The challenge the Colossian saints had was that religious legalists were persuading them that Jesus wasn’t enough for holy living. They were convincing them to adopt lots of weird beliefs and practices, which the Apostle Paul refuted with great energy.
As I thought about this passage, the following thoughts came to mind:
“Perhaps the overbearing legalism of the heretics came forth because the outward lives of the saints at Colossae didn’t look “good enough” to those who looked at externals. Perhaps they were not progressing fast enough to suit these legalists, or didn’t look holy enough, or in any number of ways, didn’t appear to be what the legalists thought they should be. Paul assured them that “their lives were hidden with Christ in God”. What was true about them God surely knew, and that in the good sense. God knew their holiness, their longing for change, and their pure motives. While it is true that ‘fruit’ from a Christian’s life ought to be evident, it is also true that much of what God is doing in someone is ‘hidden with Christ in God’, and will be revealed when Christ appears”.
Some pursue religion from false motives, others from pure. Some with impure motives seem to succeed with their religious pursuits. Others with pure motives seem to struggle and look less successful spiritually speaking. Our lives are “hidden in Christ with God”. While some might judge our externals, He knows us from the inside.
“As Christ died, & went into the tomb, His life was hidden with God, until he came forth & was fully & completely seen & known for Who he truly was. We died with Christ, & while part of us is truly known, the fullness of who we are in Him is hidden, until He appears. Then who we are, will be fully known”.
Blessings all…I have a crazy schedule coming up…I appreciate prayers…
The life of faith has been made to be a bit confusing at times. The Church, Christians, and the general public sometime assign strange parameters and guidelines about what having “faith” looks like.
I think that the idea of “never quitting” is one of those strange guidelines and benchmarks. We begin something in faith, and believe that in order to stay faithful to God, we must never quit said endeavor.
Another unbiblical sentiment is that of us wanting to know that we were right about the whatever venture of faith we took. We set out to do something in faith, and if we quit, we feel like we have failed, and that others will believe that we failed, and that we “didn’t hear God” to begin with.
Certainly there are times when quitting is not the best option. We can indeed initiate steps of faith towards a project, and then meet with difficulties, and want to quit. There is opposition, loneliness, or things don’t turn out the way we had hoped. Sometimes we ought not quit, but push forward in faith regarding what we believe God wants us to do.
However, I do believe that at other times, we ought to quit in faith. We attempt something in faith, that effort brings mixed results, but after a time, through prayer and the inner witness of the Spirit, we feel released from that effort.
We start in faith, and we quit in faith. I don’t believe that to be a sign of weakness or immaturity. To the contrary, I believe that “quitting in faith” is sometimes a great sign of maturity.
Consider the story of Abraham, who was called upon by God to offer his son.
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