10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly

chrisaiken:

Here is a thought provoking post on ministry life. I can identify with many of these…many more than I care to. It is a good read…

Originally posted on pastormatt.tv:

MB Posts When Ellen and I were first married ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere. Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.

Twenty plus years later I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated. So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a…

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POTUS…or Missionary? A Contemplation for Parents

Yesterday, after speaking on the subject of generosity, I was reflecting on the message as I often do on Sunday afternoons. As I considered the day, I had this thought from the perspective of a parent. “Would I rather have my child become the President of the United States…or serve as a missionary to an Unreached Unengaged People Group (UUPG).”

Two qualifications: First, I have great respect for our political system and am a patriot through and through. I am the guy that if the President called me today and asked me to serve…I would most likely serve in whatever capacity requested simply because the leader of my nation asked me to. I imagine most good citizens would do the same. Second, the term UUPG is a specific one. I am not speaking of being an evangelist at home or even working in an unreached area of our nation or world. The term is technical and is reserved for those people groups that are unreached (less than 2% evangelical) and unengaged (no one is actively trying to reach them with the gospel).

Now I am certainly NOT stating that one lost person is more or less important than another. To the contrary. I really am not even speaking about missions…as much as I am asking parents…”How much do you value and honor KINGDOM WORK?” Would it be a higher honor for your child to be the POTUS or a missionary to a UUPG?”

For many parents, the thoughts of our children living in a foreign land, most likely with danger afoot is nearly unacceptable. That’s significant but not yet the point. The point is, do we value the King and the King’s work so much, that we would give all that we had and all that was most precious to fulfill the King’s wishes? Or…as I suspect is the case for many…would we rather our child do something that is more comfortable and maybe prestigious in the eyes of the world?

The truth is, we likely will not struggle with whether we desire for our children to enter politics or not. We may struggle though in encouraging them to embrace the “American Dream:” and pursue a great career. We may want them to live close. We may want them to drop the grandkids by three times per month. But would we see it as a high honor if they hated all of these things in order to fulfill the calling and mandate of the King?

The answer is not a philosophical one. It is objectively measured. Do we affirm missions work? Do we take time to pray for and honor missionaries? Do we labor with tears over the lost who have no access to the gospel? Do we strive to provide opportunities for our kids to experience missions up close and personal? If we’d take our kids to a college visit but not take them to a mission field to serve on a short-term trip…can we really say that we esteem missions highly or as highly as we do a college education?

I am not proposing that I have all of the answers but inviting you to contemplate with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

5-5-5, Acts 17, Proverbs 14

This is one of the most telling missionary passages in all of the Book of Acts in my opinion. In it, I find counsel and encouragement.

Paul finds himself in Athens, the heart of Greek idolatry. It is a city of great learning, culture, the arts, and idol worship. As Paul finds himself there, waiting on the remainder of his party, he looks about the city and “his spirit is provoked” within him as he observes the altars to idols (17:16).

His response, of course, was not to blog about it :) or to start a crusade for a return to the old ways when it was less idolatrous. He simply began reasoning and teaching the Scripture. Paul shows us in this that the exposition of the Word of God illumines the mind and gives life. Now Paul began reasoning and explaining everywhere. He did not talk about it until a hotel conference room came available. He spoke in the marketplace and in the Synagogue. He talked to those who would listen. He assumed that since the people did not come with him on mission, they were the mission field! He explained the Scriptures. He explained that which is revealed through nature. He connected the story with reference points in the audience’s culture. He pointed to the Cross and the RESURRECTION!

Some accepted his teaching. Others delayed opinions. Still others thought he was mad. The responses were not the point fo the record. The fact that Paul told everyone, everywhere about the Christ is the centerpiece of the missionary enterprise. He sought to let them all know how they could understand and respond to the longing in their hearts for spiritual truth. He explained that God was the One who revealed Himself and that it was foolish to think that “little man”: could ever fabricate “big God.”

I think at times, we lose the sensitivity required to tell the truth. SUre, we live in a culture that says we must be sensitive to the people around us…to diversity. Paul was as well…but his spirit was provoked because of the ignorance of the people and the offense toward God. He knew that their actions were offensive to God. They worshipped idols.

I wonder if we even recognize the idols in our culture. Do we see family as an idol when it becomes one? Do we recognize power as an idol when it takes center stage in our hearts? Do we know that diversity and political correctness is idolatrous when it becomes more important than equality and truth? Do we call the love of money what it is…the root of all kinds of evil?

Furthermore…are we provoked in our spirits? Does the honor of God compel us to act when we see that which offends and profanes His Name? Do we act appropriately when that happens? Do we reason or do we yell our talking points?

May God grant us courage to declare that the ignorance of yesterday is no longer good enough. That God has seen fit to call all men to account and that He provided Justification and Salvation for all who would trust in His proof through the Resurrection.

Proverbs 14:15 is the takeaway today. “The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps.”

5-5-5, Acts 15, Proverbs 12

As I read in my text this morning, I was drawn to a particular verse that I want to share. in Acts 15:14-15, “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about the taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written…”

In the information age, you can find far more opinions than ever before on just about every subject. The best writer or the blog with the most traffic is often given the greatest credibility for the opinion. IOW…we tend to measure the credibility of an assertion based on things like the author or the network their newscast appears on or whether it feels “good” in our spirit to accept it. In this way…many things have not changed.

In the time of this writing, the believers who had come for the tradition of the Pharisees spoke their opinion, based on their bias. Others spoke their opinions based on their bias. Ultimately, God preserved for us the path to TRUE AND LAWFUL AUTHORITY. The testimony of Paul was measured against the Word of God. Because it aligned with the Word of God, it was accepted. It was accepted (and actually affirmed) over the popular opinion of the Jewish people. The church turned to the Word to validate what had been suggested in their midst.

What a different conversation we would have in the world today if we did the same. Now I know we don’t live in a Christian nation nor are we designed to be by political structure. (our political structure is intentionally designed by our framers to allow for political and social equality without respect to religious affiliation). However, what if we decided major decision based on how they measured up against the Word of God. If so…we’d not have any laws against alcohol production or consumption. We’d have far more social programs to help the most vulnerable in our culture. We’d not even discuss things like abortion because taking innocent life is always wrong. We’d not pass laws affirming the normalcy of homosexuality and we’d stop funding laziness and illegal activity. We would not be a libertarian society nor republican or democrat. We’d be far different in our culture. Yes…we’d have differing opinions on subjects suggested but the debate would be shortened since they could easily be measured against the Word of God.

What we can say is this…our text here did not apply to the Roman culture but to the life within the covenant community of Christianity. Therefore, we cannot even reasonably point out the issues with the culture. We can, however, look at ourselves and ask simply questions:

  • Does my life measure up to the commandments of God?
  • Does my church budget reflect God’s priorities?
  • Do I feel about my pastor and biblical authority as the Scripture demands?
  • Do I love my neighbor sacrificially?
  • Am I doing what God would have me to do in my worship and evangelism?

The truth is…if we simply deferred to the Word of God in practice as we claim to do in principle, the church would be far different in character, in influence, and in power.

Proverbs 12:5 is the takeaway today. “The thoughts of the righteous are just, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.”

Reflection on Proverbs 11:2

Often times, we hear the words “proud” or “humble” and certain images come to mind. We might picture proud as someone who flaunts his looks, her intellect, or her stature. We might imagine an athlete that earned a gold medal or a businessman that closed a deal. At the same time, we may consider “humble” and imagine an employee like a housekeeper, a janitor, or even a seamstress. These images are helpful only if they lead us to truth and deeper understanding.

I have known leaders that were rejected “flat out” because they walked with great confidence or spoke with authority. Their image conjured up in the minds of others that they might be prideful or lack necessary humility. At the same time, I have seen some leaders who would accept no counsel and believed that it was “their way or the highway” that carried themselves with a quiet disposition.

In reality, that is being judged here are people skills. A smarter person might look to see how he is perceived by an audience and seek to adjust his image to be seen as he desire.

My point…neither of these image categories speaks of biblical wisdom or biblical pride. Solomon wrote in 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.” In this verse he is speaking about a journey of becoming, not a status. (He is prideful, she is humble.) He is speaking of our prideful or humble approach or response to God’s counsel.

Another way of speaking of this might be to use the word “teachable.” A Teachable person realizes that while she has confidence, she can still learn and that the best approach to life is to follow after the Lord. THis person is teachable. She seeks truth and wisdom in the Word of God. She searches her heart. She prays for God’s illumination of her own motives which exist in the darkest recesses of her inner soul. She sensitively seeks to know and do the will of God. She is humble. She may be a CEO of a large corporation, a teaching professor at a major institution, or a political representative making policies that affect millions…but she is humble.

The contrast becomes clear when we recognize that the unteachable man, the man full of pride, believes that he has learned what he must know. He points to the past or the present as the template for action. He relies on his experience because he has already crossed that bridge and now doesn’t need to revisit. He assumes that he has no impure motives and that he has correct knowledge of God’s will. In his mind, since he identifies as a Christian, whatever he does must already be the will of God. This man is a FOOL and is eaten up with pride…even if he is a housekeeper or if he speaks in the meekest of voices.

It is time for Christians to recognize the difference, lest we fall prey to the snare of the enemy. Just because someone smiles a lot and says encouraging things does not make him a humble person. He might just be the smartest wolf dressed as a sheep you will ever meet…and the last one you meet.

5-5-5: Acts 11, Proverbs 6

A couple of things resonated with me today as I read in Acts and I thought I might just share. (Not new things…just fresh reminders.)

  • 11:2-3. Some “religious faithful” “took issue” with the fact that Peter ate with sinners. Now before we get too indignant…we have to remember that these religious faithful were BRETHREN…so they are with us, not against us. They just have baggage. They have never NOT (yep…double negative) been Jews. Jews don’t eat with Gentiles. That’s what they learned in Saturday school. Jewish girls don’t date Gentile boys. Jewish boys don’t date Gentile girls (Samson and Delilah). So now, Peter had a meal with them. What interested me was twofold: First, it wasn’t what God reportedly did that bugged them. They never got that far into the conversation. They bristled at the methodology. Second, I love that Peter didn’t filet them right there. Often times in the Twitter/FB age, the offended Christian who bristles about methodology runs to blog about how worship/evangelism/the Gospel/ our music program is compromised. Peter gives us a proper example. Explain how it happened and what God did. Then let others decide if they will join God or not. (It really isn’t about the methods or about you…but about what God is doing).
  • The gospel is essential to Salvation (11:14). I mentioned yesterday the “rub” that some of my brothers would have with God-seekers…declaring that they don’t exist. Well…they sought, and when they heard the gospel…BY WHICH…they were then saved…well, you get the picture…
  • 11:18. Yep, they couldn’t dispute what God had done and since God is preeminent, they agreed and accepted and rejoiced in the Lord’s work of granting repentance to the Gentiles.
  • 11:23. There is something about the grace of God that is visible…because Barnabas WITNESSED it. So…if it isn’t visible…has there been a life change by grace? (Where’s the fruit).
  • 11:24. What a description. I’m going to preach on this.
  • 11:29. Real heart change and relationship with God reveals itself in compassion toward others, particularly toward the brethren. Here…PROPORTIONATELY…as each had means…the church at Antioch gave sacrificially for the brethren in Judea. (And they let Pastor Barnabas hold the money…once again proving that the Kingdom must have more than Baptists…since no Baptist church would let a Pastor even see the money ;)  ).

Proverbs 6:5. “Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” (In the context of debt and securing debt for another, the writer says…get FREE! Create some margin in your life because debt is a trap.)

5x5x5…Acts 10, Proverbs 5

So this morning in my reading here in Acts 10, I came across a nugget and thought I might share., in case it resonated with anyone else.

As we approach this transitional time in Peter’s understanding…we find something “on display” about the heart of God. First, we see the earnest seeker. (Now some of my reformed brothers will bristle at this…claiming that no ‘dead man’ can seek after God. I disagree based on this text, but I do not believe this man is unprovoked. The Holy Spirit was, in fact, drawing on the heart of this man…to which he responded in the only way a ‘lost’ man can respond…by seeking favor, doing good and hoping his prayers are answered.)

The man received a word from God…”send (act) for a man at Simon the tanner’s home. He will share my message with you.” The centurion sent as God had instructed…but that is not all. He also assembled a crowd at his home. He was excited, anticipating, hoping, and expecting God to send a messenger.

Enter stage right…Peter (the messenger) needed to have solidified in his heart a truth about God that was a little “squishy” up to this point. God loves all people…even those who are not insiders. Through Peter’s earnest seeking (prayer on the rooftop…which seemed to be a habit/routine/regular occurrence of his) God spoke in a vision and prepared Peter. He then had the centurion’s part arrive and instructed Peter to go with them. Peter did. [What's interesting is the level of faith this required. Peter is about to go on a journey with strangers...a journey for more than a day of walking...to visit with a Roman military officer (a centurion)...all because he saw a vision during his prayer? I imagine there are a few of us that might have responded differently or posed 20 questions to God at this point.]

Exit stage left and emerge in Scene 2. We find Peter and the centurion in a personal engagement. Both find a degree of confirmation in their individual messages from God. Then…Peter tells the story to which the Gentiles respond and the evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested before them through the speaking of tongues.

Finally, Peter asserts that these “Gentiles” (outsiders) should be welcomed into the family of God with the SAME ACCEPTANCE that each believer (insiders) has experienced by grace. [Evidenced through baptism].

Takeaways:

  • God’s tent is bigger than our tent…and His tent is authoritatively all that really matters. As believers…it is not that we don’t have a right to refuse people coming into the family…we are commanded to embrace them as fully equal partners in the Kingdom.
  • Our hearts are smaller and more narrow than we’d like to admit. All of us, while seeking, are afflicted to some degree with what afflicted Peter. We need a broader vision of who God is.
  • God draws on people who are outsiders to provoke them to become insiders.
  • God uses insiders to tell the story of His gracious SEEKING and JUSTIFYING and SANCTIFYING work.
  • When we (insiders) embrace God’s plan, we get to see God move in miraculous ways. [I reflected on how this might have been different if Peter had written off the vision or refused to go with the messengers or required more 'evidence' of conversion before baptism, etc.]

This heart change on the part of Peter gives us a glimpse into the heart of God and just how far God will go to draw men to Himself…that His house may be filled. Glory to God!

Proverbs 5:7. “Now then, my sons, listen to me and do not depart from the words of my mouth.”