Tag Archives: family

Ministry is Hard

Ministry is hard, sometimes.

Often, people see the fun things that ministers get to do. They get to visit with families and laugh and play. They get invited to hunt and fish. They get to set their own hours. They eat with people, a lot.

Some people think that preachers only work Sundays and Wednesdays. This is NOT true. Most weeks, ministers work some part of every day. Not because they choose to, but because they are needed, and unless they are deep in the backwoods somewhere, they are reachable. And, because ministers are in it to serve God and others, they say, “Yes!”, even on their days off, and in many ways, they enjoy serving in this way.

But sometimes ministry is hard.

When you live a long way from home, and your loved one is dying, and you have to choose whether or not to go see him before he dies, ministry is hard.

When you invest time upon time into the life of another, only to see them turn from the ways of Jesus, ministry is hard.

When your friend dies, and you are called upon to do his funeral, ministry is hard.

When someone in the community asks you to do a funeral for someone who didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, ministry is hard.

When you show people the ways of the scripture, but they choose to continue in their traditions instead of with freedom in Christ, ministry is hard.

When you watch children spending time with their extended family who lives nearby, while yours only see their extended family during vacation time, ministry is hard.

When your job security is a certain as the emotional state of the church, ministry is hard.

But ministry is fulfilling.

It is wonderful to see lives change. It brings great joy to help others understand the love of Christ in the Scriptures. It is wonderful to have forever family that you can lean on in hard times and in celebratory times. It is great to have the freedom to do ministry when needed and not be confined to an office.

There are many perks to being in full-time ministry, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Pray for your minister. I know this may sound selfish since I’m a minister, but encourage him. Let him know he’s wanted. Let him know his place is secure. Treat him like your brother, and not as an outsider or hired hand. Invite him and his family to lunch or dinner or an outing instead of waiting for him to invite you. Get to know him.

Encourage his family. Often, his wife and kids are left to fend for themselves while he serves everyone else. The preacher’s kid syndrome is real, and many ministers lose their kids to the world because of how the kids grow up seeing the church treat their dad. Let the family of your minister know how valuable they are, not as helpers for the church, but as brothers and sisters who are beloved.

When you treat your minister well, you will find he has renewed strength to soar in the Spirit as he works to serve and teach and lead in the church.

I’m glad to be a minister, working for the LORD, and serving the church and community.

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Watch the Pendulum

Have you ever watched the pendulum on a grandfather clock? Maybe you’ve watched a plumb bob swing, or you created some other oscillating device. Back and forth it goes, swinging each time a little less unless there is a mechanism aiding the pendulum. There’s actually a great video on YouTube where a professor shows his class the nature of gravity when acting upon a pendulum. You can find that video here.

Often times the practices of society work like a pendulum. For a while, society behaves a certain way, then there is a moment of reaction and society shifts to behave in an opposite way.

Before the 1960s, the world was functioning in what is termed as the “modern” mindset, where the scientific method was king, and wars were fought, and society thought happiness could be achieved through rational thinking. Then, the 1960s happened. There was a general revelation that technology and science and logic could not create happiness and fulfillment in society, so a shift occurred. The western world moved into a frame of mind referred to as “postmodern”. It was, basically, a reaction to all things modern. In postmodernism, truths became relative, and one’s perspective determined one’s truth. Also in postmodernism, a person needed the spiritual/mystical to balance the physical, because it became evident that the physical realm is not all there is to this universe, and things in the metaphysical realm influence our reality.

For many people who had grown up modern, this postmodern shift was difficult to swallow. However, all they needed to do was wait. Now we are in yet another shift of culture, and the definition of this new shift is still being examined and explored. We are now in a post-postmodern culture. Not modern. Not postmodern. Somewhere else – likely a combination of both.

In the church, these culture swings happen regularly as well.

For a long time, the church functioned without the scriptures available to all, and she focused on living rightly and devotion to the Lord. Then, when the Bible became accessible to the masses, she swung to focus on knowledge and devotion to the Bible, even though she said the knowledge was to influence actions. Now there is a swing back to try to be more social even as we remain somewhat biblically literate.

There has also been a shift in church culture regarding attending weekly services. For a long time, it was thought that missing church on any given Sunday (unless you were ill) was tantamount to walking away from the faith. Not only did you attend every Sunday to maintain good standing in the faith, but you dressed the part to show your devotion (giving the best) to God.

As culture outside the church has shifted, understandings within the church has shifted, and the attitude toward church attendance has dramatically changed. I remember, when I was younger, how people would make the argument that one would not need church attendance to get to heaven. Even as a teen, I remember attempting to show them the holes in their arguments, using verses like Hebrews 10:25.

The pendulum has swung, and nowadays families treat church attendance as if it is significantly optional. If one person has the sniffles, the whole family stays home. If chores need to be done, attendance with the saints at the assembly is put on hold for more practical endeavors. It is quite the swing of the pendulum how the church perceives attendance at the assembly today.

One of the main problems with this new attitude is the generational consequences being seen. With a 20% retention rate of our young people within our churches, we are already seeing the results of raising kids with this church-optional attitude. When you do not show your kids the importance of the assembly, they will be less devoted than even you are.

Another result of this pendulum swing is being seen in our churches at large. Because attendance is down, volunteers are scarce, and money for ministries wanes. The church is stronger together (Ecclesiastes 4:12). She really does suffer when you are not dedicated to her.

Probably the greatest result of this pendulum swing, however, is seen in the people themselves. Because of a disconnection with the life of the church, the lifestyles of the church looks more like the world than ever. When we do not have continual encouragement and accountability and reminders – when we disconnect from the body – we die spiritually. This is a biblical fact (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Do not sit back and watch the church suffer because the pendulum has swung. You have direct influence on the pendulum. We do not have to be so legalistic about the church as she was for a long time, but in our reaction to legalism, let us not throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak. May we all renew our devotion, not only to the Lord, but to His church and her work in Him.


Dutiful Valentine

It’s love week. Everyone is thinking about upcoming Valentine’s Day. For some, it’s “singles awareness day”. But even so, it’s still appropriate to be reminded of those you love and those who love you: Family, friends, etc…

When I first got married, I remember trying to do special things for my wife on Valentine’s Day. It didn’t take me long to realize she didn’t appreciate my gifts on Valentine’s Day as much as I had hoped.

If you know my wife, you know that she is a great woman who shows love to many. She wasn’t being inappropriately dismissive; she had a different perspective on the holiday. For her, getting gifts of love on Valentine’s Day is like getting a hug from a kid whose parents told them to do it. Valentines Day is a great reminder to love, but to love only on Valentine’s Day or because of Valentine’s Day is disingenuous.

If we love out of duty, then we aren’t loving.

Think about it. If someone gave you a gift, but when you thanked them for it, they responded with, “Well, I had to give it to you; it was my duty.” How would you feel? Would you have the warm-fuzzy’s for that person and their gift? If the only time we show love is when it’s expected, then are we really loving others?

Why should we love?

Other people are difficult. They’re a pain to deal with. They argue with us and make life a mess all around us. And we’re difficult too, so why should we love them?

Have you been loved?

In church, it seems like the greatest trump card answer is either God or Jesus. Have They loved you? Someone once said this about Jesus: “Jesus said, ‘I love you this much.’ And he stretched out his arms and died.” Do you see the love of Jesus? Do you experience the love of God, the Father? Do you understand what has been done on your behalf regardless of your appreciation or response or devotion or understanding? If so, you’ve been loved.

Have you been loved by anyone else? Mother, Father, Sibling, Significant Other, Friend, Co-worker, Boss, Employee, Random Stranger. Has anyone shown you love?

If you’ve been loved, then the appropriate response is to love in return. To refrain from loving others is to show contempt for the love you’ve received.

Yes, love is a command, but love is also the “why” behind the command. God wants us to love others because He already loves them. He has already sacrificed so much and created so much for them. He already sees them as His children, and just as you want others to love your children, so God wants us to love His children.

But not out of duty. Instead, we should love out of appreciation. We love in reciprocation. We love in adoration – for God and for those God loves.

If we only love on Sundays, we are hypocrites. If we only love those who love us, we are selfish and without the heart of Jesus who loved those who crucified Him. If we only love on holidays, our love is shallow and meaningless.

Instead, choose to love everyone. Don’t categorize people. Do what is necessary to love everyone equally. Listen to them and find out how to love them best. Love is a choice we make to treat others how we would want to be treated because we’ve already received grace and mercy.

And don’t just do it on Valentine’s Day.


Aztec, Silence is Golden

tigers hurt

The oldest book in the Bible is the story of Job.

In this story, Job is terrorized by Satan and his forces who destroy Job’s property, kill his children, and take away his health.  Throughout this process, Job refuses to curse God.

As Job begins to grieve, he puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes, a sign of mourning, and his three closest friends come to visit Job in his time of sorrow.

They sat with Job and said nothing.

For seven days they sat with him in mourning, grieving for their friend who had lost so much.  There were no words of comfort.  There were no quirky phrases that do more harm than good.  There was only silence and companionship.

Aztec is hurting.  Our children are grieving.  Three families especially are beside themselves with loss and grief and uncertainty.

I have spoken with families relaying that their children are not wanting to talk.  Parents want to help, but they’re unsure of how to do so.  They recognize the health that comes through emoting and discussion, but so many young people can’t talk right now.  They’re hurting on a tremendously deep level.  And they’re scared.

Sometimes people need others to be patient and simply sit with them in silence.

In the movie, “The Horse Whisperer”, it was imperative that Robert Redford’s character spend copious amounts of time with the horse simply being near in order to gain the trust of the horse.  After a long while, the horse would know the goodness of the man, and then relationship could be fostered.

This scenario is similar.  Kids need to know that it’s OK that they’re hurting.  They need to know that they won’t lose anyone else at this time.  They need to know you’re there beside them in times of quiet and in times of the flood of emotion that is sure to come. They need you to just be there.

Sit with them.  If they don’t kick you out of their room, sit on their bed with them and hold them in silence.  Just love them where they are.  Pray for them as you hold them.

As they begin to talk, ask questions.  Statements right now aren’t the best help.  They need to be able to talk things through and explore this new world on this side of the tragedy.  They need to discover their own way and find their loved ones supportive and caring in this new way.

For many of the young people in Aztec High last Thursday, life will never be the same.  Trust and security have been shattered.  The small-town atmosphere has been violated now that the thing that “would never happen here” has occurred.

We all need love.  We all need prayers.  We all need people who care for us enough to simply sit next to us and not say a word, like Job’s three friends. May we be that for our young people in the weeks and months to come.

If you need a safe place to talk, pray, heal, or just need someone to sit with you, I’m here for you.  Call us at the Aztec church of Christ at 334-6626 for support.  We have been praying and will continue to pray for you.


#AztecStrong

My heart is breaking.

We lost three young people yesterday in senseless violence. Two of them were unsuspecting innocents that never stood a chance. The other one was filled with distorted, evil thoughts that provoked him to evil behavior.

This was violence caused because of a heart issue.

This was tragic.

Our whole community is reeling in the wake of this ridiculous scenario. Yet, we will not give up on life. We will move on.

Tragedies like these and natural disasters and other such devastating circumstances do something paradoxically wonderful to a community. It feel wrong to say it out loud, but while the killings were horrible (and I cannot imagine the grief of the families involved today and in the coming days) they did something wonderful within our community.

It is a shame it takes a tragedy to remind the people in a community to band together in unity. But time and time again across this nation, we see just such a pattern of events play out. Right now, in California, communities are banding together in support of the victims of the fires. The whole nation came together in support of the flooding victims in Texas. When 9-11 happened, the nation rallied together in unity.

I’ve been in communities hit hard by natural disasters and violent acts of terror, and in both situations, I have seen good come out of tragedy and evil.

Yesterday, the community of Aztec began to rally together in support for the families of those whose children lost their lives, and they continue to reach out and show support today, and they will continue to do so in the future.

But not long from now, we will forget what this feels like. This unity. We will forget to stay unified and go back to the routineness of our lives. It’s a sad statement, but it is true. I’ve seen it over and over again.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can keep reaching out and spending time with our neighbors. In fact, that’s what we should have been doing all along. We have been called by Jesus to love our neighbors. We have been called to carry one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (which is to love). We have been called to shine the light of Christ though His Spirit at work in us.

We, Christians, have been called to perpetuate this sense of unity and camaraderie in our communities.

Yesterday, I sat in a room full of pastors from various churches and experienced unity and humility as we sought to work together to help the community through the grieving process by hosting a vigil. There was no power struggle. There were no attitudes of superiority. There was humility and unity, and it felt great.

I’m proud of the way our community has come together in the midst of this horrible event. I’m proud of the way our churches have shown love. Let us not go back to the way things were. Let us not allow the deaths of these young people to be wasted by selfishness and division. Let us all remember that we are one community, and we need each other.


Priorities Askew

Broken-Family-Relationship-Picture

When I was a boy I had a hard time saving money for things. I would get a few dollars for some work I did, and it was like there was some strange, unseen force that compelled me to “need” everything I saw that cost less than the amount I had earned. Forget the magnificent toy I would need to save up for, my sights were on the quick, easy, immediate gratification prizes.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but that lack of ability to save for the future was a symptom of a greater cultural problem of my day that persists today as well.

What was the greater cultural problem? Skewed priorities.

I was putting my selfish need for immediate gratification above the needed experience of saving or even of giving to others. I was the most important person on the planet.

In many marriages today we see struggles and often divorce because of this skewed hierarchy of priorities. In many marriages today it seems that the kids come first, and everything else come somewhere behind the children. In many relationships, the husband/wife relationship is put somewhere far down on the list if there’s room.

No wonder there are so many struggling families today!

This doesn’t have to be the way of every marriage, however. You can have a happy, healthy marriage if you will, as a couple, decide to rearrange your priorities.

First priority needs to be your relationship with God. You claimed Jesus as “Lord” when you gave your life to Christ. Jesus said you need to seek his Kingdom first. When you focus on growing in your relationship with God and helping your spouse do the same many great things will happen. First, you will begin to change into the person God created you to be. Second, you will grow closer to your spouse as you pursue the Kingdom of God together. Third, you will lead our children by example in a way that will hopefully create a lasting legacy of faith in them.

The second priority in your marriage needs to be…wait for it…your marriage. No! The kids don’t come first!! As a husband or wife, your devotion is first to God and then to your spouse. When you focus on the kids before your mate you neglect the covenant you vowed to uphold at your wedding. You must find time for each other to rekindle the relationship that started your family. Do things you both love to do together. Show the children how to honor one another above yourself, and you will model for them the kind of relationship you hope they will have.

The third priority in your marriage is kids and everyone else. Yes, I lumped them all together. Your kids need to be raised by you, but they don’t need to be the sole focus of your life. They need to see you model interactions with others as you serve and communicate with other people. They need to see your devotion to God and your spouse. A society that focuses primarily on the children is a relatively new concept that really took flight once television was invented. When commercials started targeting children, the culture followed in its focus. You don’t have to make your children the center of your universe for them to be healthy, and doing so keeps you from being healthy in your relationship with God and your spouse.

When marriages rearrange their priorities in this way they see growth and change for the good. They become a stronger family. Thoughts of divorce fade away.

How are your priorities? Do you need to re-evaluate?


Just for Men…ok, Women too


For nearly two thousand years, the church has struggled with the hierarchy of leadership. Bishops, priests, deacons, elders, pastors, preachers, cardinals (birds?), etc. We have worship leaders and prayer leaders and ministry leaders and youth leaders. Now there are arguments as to whether women can be leaders in these and other roles. I think we argue about  leadership roles because we have forgotten what true leadership looks like. 

Husbands, you are the head of your household, physically and spiritually. The scriptures say so. So you get to have your way, right? 

If your marriage is struggling, may I suggest it is because you have held a more worldly view of your headship in the home than a biblical view. 

The world says the head is in charge. That’s where the brains are. That’s where the mouthpiece is, and the rest of the body sustains the head. In families, men act like kings and unintentionally trample those they claim to love by their exercise of authority. 

Jesus is the head of the church. How does he lead? He sacrificed himself and daily intercedes for us.  

When you read of a husband’s leadership in Ephesians 5, you read terms like these:

  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
  • Gave himself up for her
  • Sanctify her
  • Love her as your own body
  • Nourish and cherish her
  • Love her

Where’s the authoritarian attitude in this passage? It is non-existent. A godly husband is a voluntary servant for his family – loving them by sacrificing himself for them daily. 

Does this look like your experience as husband? What woman wouldn’t want a husband like this? 

In the church we encourage the men to take leadership roles, but those don’t look much different. A leader is a servant. He is not someone who is exercising his authority to get his way. He is sacrificing time and effort and even finances for the good of the church, the bride of Christ. 

Oh, and he’s not doing it for the praise of others. If that were the case, he would receive no reward from the Father. 

If the church functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be so many arguments about who can do what. We wouldn’t consider someone of higher prestige because of their particular title. We would encourage all to serve and be grateful for their service. 

If husbands functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be divorce. If you were serving, cherishing, loving, praying for, and nourishing your wife, she would be with you forever. If wives functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be so much resentment against husbands. 

Face it. No one deserves to be served by you. No one deserves your love and gifts of time and effort. But you don’t deserve that from Christ either, and he gladly, willingly, gave everything for you. So do likewise. 

“Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” -Jesus (John 13:12-15)

Lead by serving like Jesus, and watch the people around you blossom. 


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