Tag Archives: hope

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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Even Though…

Do you ever have times when life seems to be crashing down all around you?

The ending of this year has been tough for many people. Death, destruction, divorce, despair, drought. All of these are affecting people’s perspectives on life as we know it. Where is the hope when times are down?

Do you know the Lord?

This is kind of a cliché, but, seriously, do you know Him?

Do you know His might? Have you experienced it in your life? Did you notice when He worked mightily for you as a fulfillment of Romans 8:28 in spite of uncertain future events? Do you hear Him call you to draw near to Him? Do you feel His presence when you’re alone? Do you talk with Him like He’s your Father?

Do you know the Lord?

Many people know ABOUT God. They read (or have read) about Him in the Bible. They may even go to bible class and worship services, but their experience with God is entirely intellectual. This is not what God intended for us. This is not why Jesus came to the earth to make the way to God through his death on the cross and resurrection. Now that you have access directly to the Father through Jesus and by His Spirit living in you, you can have relationship with God Most High as His child.

When you get to know God, you find He is wonderful in every way. He is gentle and ferocious. He is loving, and He avenges those He loves. He is generous, but He is also a disciplinarian. He is the ultimate Father – better than any earthly, flawed, human father could hope to be.

So, times are down. Hope is distant. This year has been tough for you, and the next year doesn’t look too bright either.

Look to the Lord like Habakkuk.

Around 612-606 B.C., Habakkuk had a conversation with God concerning the future of His homeland. He asked God, “Why don’t You do something about all the injustice in the land?” (This is a common question many of us ask today.) God responded by telling Habakkuk about the exile of Judah to Babylon. Habakkuk recoiled at the idea that a heathen nation who didn’t recognize God would be used to discipline God’s chosen. But God comforted Habakkuk with words of just enough explanation to ease Habakkuk’s consternation.

Habakkuk learned of God’s justice but also of His love for His children. He learned of God’s might and constancy. He learned to see God with the faith that leads to righteousness. This would lead Habakkuk to finish His conversation with God in worship.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Did you see the scene Habakkuk sets up as he is led into worship? All of life around him is failing. Economy is collapsing, and famine is knocking at the door, but this will not dissuade Habakkuk from his faith in God.

In fact, “Though” is a mighty word here. No matter the situation, whether good times or bad, Habakkuk will take joy in God and look to Him for strength and salvation. He may not be able to see or understand the future, but he knows God is already there and has promised to be with him.

Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds the church that God has said, “I will never leave or forsake you.” This gives us confidence to resist fear.

Fear cripples us. Despair is a form of doubt. But God is near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).

So, no matter how bad this year has been, and no matter what may come in the upcoming years, we can still rejoice in the God who has saved and continues to save us through the trials of this life because of our hope in the life to come. Know the Lord. Know His comfort. Rejoice in Him. And share His goodness with others who are struggling.


Practicing Perspective

What’s the difference between a happy person and a miserable one?

Have you ever noticed some people are always happy? They seem to find the best possible outcome of every situation. When you speak to them, you leave feeling better about yourself and the world around you.

Then there are also people who are always down. Talking with them sucks the life out of you. Nothing seems to go right for them. The world is out to get them.

What’s the difference?

Perspective.

There are people all over the world who scrape by to make ends meet. They aren’t sure where their next meal is going to come from, yet they share with others. They laugh heartily. They sing and smile. They have joy. For many people, to be in such dire circumstances would be more than they could bear, yet for these people, what they do not have is insignificant to what they do.

They have a different perspective on life.

Tragedy seems to come in threes. It may present with more or fewer troubling circumstances, but three seems to be the common, magic number. When problems begin to stack on one another, it is harder to breathe. It’s like stones are being stacked on our chest, and all we can think about are those stones crushing and suffocating the life out of us. We are absolutely sure the stones will kill us. But they don’t. They haven’t yet. And they don’t have to in the future.

Nothing is permanent in this life. Things are temporal. Pleasure is temporal. Life is temporal. Even your personality can be changed (and likely has already). Change is the only constant in this life.

That should bring hope to everyone. The storm you’re in is temporary.

What we tend to do, however, is focus on our storms.

When you’re dealing with tragedy in your life, all you can concentrate on is the tragedy. You eat, sleep, and breathe this tragedy, and when you do, it crushes you. Those who have that contagious joy don’t have fewer tragedies; they simply see through the tragedy to hope.

When you’re in a relationship that is struggling, it is easy to see all the negative in the relationship, and especially in the other person. So how do people find joy in relationships? Are they somehow blessed with fewer struggles? NO! They choose to see the good in the relationship and the other person in spite of the current struggle. When that happens, they resolve conflict more quickly and feel happier in the relationship.

So how do we gain this new perspective that breathes life?

1. We remember that this life is fleeting, and we have been given hope of resurrection, forgiveness, and inheritance through Jesus Christ. If you’ve been saved in Jesus, you have this hope. It needs to drive your life. This life and its troubles is not all there is. And Jesus promised to be with us, so we are never alone in our troubles.

2. We look for the good going on around us and in other people even in the storm. This will take practice. We, in our consumeristic, selfish culture, are used to seeing the problems more than the solutions in ourselves, others, and the situations we find ourselves in. It is discipleship to hope for good through love (1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 2:14).

3. Once we find the good (in self, others, situations, etc.), we focus on that. Satan will try to tempt us back into focusing on the negative and being consumed by darkness, but we don’t have to give in. When we focus on the good in our spouses, we fight less. When we focus on the good in even the worst situation, we find hope faster. When we focus on the good in us, we fight depression.

These steps aren’t easy, but they’re necessary. They take practice, especially if you’re used to seeing the negative. May we all find perspective that breathes joy in this world in spite of this world.


Where is Hope

Where is hope if I do not believe in God? 

What good is it to live this life with all its hurts and struggles and frustrations if there is nothing beyond? People may remember me, but how long? Does that really even matter?

I’m not getting out of here alive, and neither are you. 

If there is nothing beyond this physical realm, then I should simply do whatever makes me feel good at the time that I may enjoy at least moments of happiness before I perish. 

If there is no hope, then there is no true reason to behave according to anyone’s preset standards. Morality is lost if this is all there is, for no one will remember me anyway, and there are no lasting consequences for my behavior beyond this short span we call life. 

Where there is no hope, there is no peace, and fear reigns. 

Where is hope if I believe in God?

To believe in God is to believe in someone and something grander than this physical world. If I believe in God then there are promises from that God which bring hope in this life and the life to come. 

To believe in God is to believe in the afterlife – heaven – an eternity of rest and joy in the presence of the Creator. It is to believe that this measly life is only a trifle compared to the glory that awaits us. 

This gives us hope in every circumstance. If life is crumbling all around and storms rage inside us there is hope because of the temporary nature of these experiences. If loved ones who know Jesus are near death there is hope that more grandeur awaits them. If I near death, my hope can provide peace instead of fear. 

This hope isn’t just for heaven. This hope is in the best of others around us. It is in the workings of God in this life. It is in the idea that I can be better tomorrow than I was yesterday. 

If there is hope, then there is a standard by which we live to achieve that hope. There is a moral code introduced by the One who Created us and gives us hope. 

When I have hope, I find that I want to do what the standard requires because the outcome of my hope is everlasting rather than temporary. 

Without God there is no hope. Hope comes through relationship with the Creator. 

Where is hope? Do you have it?


Cake and Roses and Fluffy Puppies

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I’ve written before about my love for mountain climbing or just climbing in general. The feeling of standing on the top of a high place and seeing the world from above is breathtaking. However, the top isn’t the only part of the journey worth talking about.

When you set out to climb a mountain there are a lot of undesirable issues you must deal with to get there. There is the hassle of camping and gear if you choose to make it an overnight trip. There is the issue of sustenance, for you will surely need the energy to make it to the top. Because you must have sustenance you will have to carry that weight on your back. This creates more weight for you to have to haul up the mountain.

Then there’s the sheer feat of climbing the mountain. No mountain is “easy”. Some are less difficult than others, but your body does strange things above 10,000 feet of elevation. As you climb there are rocks that you trip on. There is often snow to be traversed. There are aching muscles from the constant upward motion. Then there’s the dreaded issue of having to go to the bathroom above tree line (embarassing).

Climbing a mountain is fun and rewarding, but it is also difficult and painful.

When you listen to many preachers talk about life in Christ you hear about love, joy, peace, kindness and other such beautiful ideas. You hear about grace and forgiveness. Who wouldn’t want those things? Christianity sounds awesome, right?!

What they don’t tell you is that Christianity is like climbing up the mountain. The summit experience is awesome, but you have to go through the climb of life to get there. It isn’t all cake and roses and fluffy puppies. Sometimes Christianity is tears and pain and division and struggle.

Jesus was very clear that the Kingdom of Heaven – the kingdom that is here and now in those allowing Christ to rule in their hearts – is much more desirable than the kingdoms of this world with their selfishness and tyranny. However he also made a couple of statements that aren’t so popular.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

He also promises this:

“In this world you will have trouble.”

Well, that’s not very happy. It doesn’t seem like Jesus is doing the best job marketing this new kingdom life.

Think about it though. Have you ever made a decision you knew was right, yet everyone around you was angry with you for the decision you made? Have you ever loved someone even though they hurt you? Have you ever risked your life for someone else? Then you know what Jesus is talking about.

We choose to live for Christ because He is teaching us the way of love, but not everyone likes this way. Some people even hate this way of life because our living this way exposes the darkness within them. They revile against it, and division is created, and relationships are damaged.

In Luke 14 Jesus encourages us to count the cost of being his disciple. It will be a struggle, and you will have to be wiling to sacrifice everything for him, but what you gain is so worth it. Forgiveness, grace, eternal life, relationship with the Creator, purpose in this life. Those things cannot be given a value.

After Jesus promised that we will have trouble in this world, he said “but take heart because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus doesn’t leave us alone to deal with these struggles ourselves. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He has promised to take every circumstance and bring good out of it (Romans 8:28). He has promised to love you, and he showed it by dying for you. He gave his life for you. Are you willing to go through a little bit of struggle for him?

One more thing.
In Jesus there is a new perspective that I learn day by day as I follow him. The more I live like Jesus the less concerned I am with myself because I am learning to love others more. This brings pain at times when I am rejected, but this also brings hope in all things because of the resurrection. I now have a choice on how I look at the hard times. I choose to look at them as learning experiences and refining fire that makes me stronger. I choose this because I know that this life is not all there is for me. My eternal life began when I gave my life to Jesus, and it reaches its fullness once this physical life reaches its limits. Death is not the end, so I live this life with joy and hope whatever the situation.

Count the cost before you come to Christ, but know that the cost is well worth it for the joy of knowing the Creator and living in His presence. And if you’re already in Christ, live with the perspective of hope in all circumstances. Jesus is with you. His Spirit lives inside you. You are eternal – your pain doesn’t have to be.


Why Did Jesus Weep?

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Death is hard. I used to think that I dealt with death pretty well, but these last two weeks have been pretty taxing.

Last week I had the honor of ministering to a family who had lost a young man who was 33. He went to sleep and didn’t wake up. He left behind two young children. This past week I was honored again to be able to minister to another family who lost a son, brother, and husband who was 28. He was murdered while helping a lady with her car.

Death is hard.

Unfortunately death is an inevitability for each and every one of us. How will we deal with it? How do we prepare for what will eventually befall us? Are you ready?

So many people live this life with a focus on today or even yesterday. We are supposed to do that, but we must never forget that there will come a day when we will meet our Maker. We must be prepared because we aren’t even guaranteed to make it out of today alive. James, the brother of Jesus, talks about how fragile our lives are. He says they are a mist or vapor that appears only for a moment. Then he speaks to what I think is key. He says (my paraphrase) to take advantage of every moment while here on earth.

I’ll be honest with you. My hope and confidence is in the resurrection. I plan on living forever with the Almighty, my Abba. I have confidence in this because I’ve been united with His Son in His death and resurrection. Romans 6 talks about when we are united with Christ. Then it says if we have been united with Jesus’ death and resurrection we will also have eternal life today and even after we physically die.

Do you have confidence that you will be raised to live with Christ forever? Do you have your plan for the future? Is your plan based on what your Creator has said in His word?

Death comes quickly. Death is hard. And for many people death is sad. But for those who have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection death is not the end. For us death is actually a time of celebration for the journey of our loved one is complete as he or she is ushered into the presence of the One they longed to see face to face – the Creator.

Paul says to the church in Corinth that they didn’t not have to grieve like those who have no hope because of the resurrection of Jesus.

Yet death is still hard.

Jesus went to raise his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. He had waited longer in the place he was before going just because he knew that Lazarus was going to die and he was going to raise his friend to glorify God. Yet, when he got to the funeral on the fourth day after Lazarus’ death he still saw all the people weeping, grieving over the loss of their loved one and Jesus wept too. He knows how hard death is on us. He loves us in the midst of it, and he offers a way to overcome death.

Jesus has overcome death through his resurrection. He offers that opportunity to you as well. Would you give your life to him and allow him to wash away all that keeps you from having eternal life? Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come.


The Least Popular Article I’ve Written

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This will not be my most popular article.

Are you a Christian? If you say yes, then this article is for you. If not, you are welcome to read this because you may get a glimpse into what this life is all about, but you should know that the standard set before us in this article is not for you…not yet. Hopefully, however, you will find that the Savior, Jesus, is well worth whatever it takes to seek Him.

So, are you still with me? Good!

As humans, we have a tendency toward brokenness. If you look at the world around us you will see that we are a broken species living broken lives in a broken environment that we choose broken procedures to try to repair to a less broken status. Because we are a messed up people, then when we do things, by our nature, we mess them up.

This is true of our ability to follow Christ.

We are called to be Christians, but for many people this is merely a moniker, a title that gives us religious clout in whatever circles we desire to reveal that title to others. We are but fans of the One to whom we declared our allegiance when we became Christians.

There is a difference between being a fan of Jesus and being His follower. Unfortunately, since the beginning of Christianity, the majority of people who claim his forgiveness are not much more than fans.

Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re saying, “not me!” I hope so, but let’s look at the calling to which you were called.

First of all, Sunday morning worship services and Wednesday night classes are not the penultimate experiences of the Christian life. We are not called to worship on Sunday and Wednesday only. We are called to offer our bodies daily as living sacrifices to God. Worship is supposed to come from us all day every day. In many churches the people who do show up barely even sing anyway, and the attendance on Sunday morning is considerably different than the actual church membership roster. However, this is only a small sampling of evidence for fandom.

What have you sacrificed/given up for Christ? When we are called to Christ, we are called to die to ourselves. In fact, Jesus says we must take up our own cross. He wants us to come to Him and die with him. Can you imagine if the new church slogan was “Come and Die”? Would you want to worship with that group? You would if you understood what Jesus was calling you to.

He is not calling you to a life of luxury. If he were, would he have spent his life and ministry with no home and little food? Wouldn’t he have had a great financial base with which to do ministry?

He didn’t really focus on wealth and prosperity. In fact, he said as a promise that if you follow him you are guaranteed hardship as a result. Have you suffered hardship because of Christ? If you haven’t, then are you truly following him the way you are called to do so?

He doesn’t call us to live for him when it’s convenient. He doesn’t call us to live for him when we aren’t at work or school or doing something else important. He doesn’t call us to go on mission trips and to revival weekends. He calls us to live in mission wherever we are all day every day. We are called daily to revival as we seek His will for our lives.

In America, the American dream of prosperity and status has had an open door into the mindsets of our churches, and it won’t be until we rid ourselves of the needs and desires for things of this world that we can truly put our hand to the plow and not look back.

The world is watching. Recently I was told by a couple of different people that the reason they didn’t want to come to Christ is that they couldn’t see that it was doing anything special for His followers. That is sad, and it convicts me on so many levels.

You aren’t called to be a fan of Jesus. You are called to be a follower, and following means going where He would go and where He is calling. He went to the broken and hurting and dirty people of his day. He went to the poor and the lame. He went out into the world and didn’t associate with the religious cliques of his time. He is calling you to follow him there. He is calling you to get uncomfortable for Him. He is calling you out of YOUR life and into HIS.

Jesus knew this would be tough, and he knew you would have to make some hard choices. Some of you may even have to reject your family because you choose Jesus over them. You may have to change jobs or friends. You may have to tell your boss you can’t work at certain times because you are dedicated to something greater (and being with the saints on Sunday is something greater). I know of a farmer who dedicated to God that he wouldn’t work on Sunday even during the harvest, and he always got his crops in…in fact he had a bumper crop from that point forward.

When we follow Jesus the way he calls us to follow, then we can truly begin to live in the Eternal Life He is calling us to.

If you’re not willing to give yourself up in that way, then consider the choice. It’s time for all of us to stop pretending we are one way and living another. Jesus spoke a lot about that too, and he said it to the religious folk of His day.

So, I hope you’re still with me. We have all fallen short of this, but through the grace of Jesus He helps us get back up and continue to dedicate our lives to Him. When you fail, don’t wallow in self pity. Stand back up! Jesus has already forgiven you.

Please share this with your friends who are Christians. Please make changes in your life as you truly seek Christ with all your heart. Let hypocrisy die in us as His Spirit comes alive in us.


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