Tag Archives: love

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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God Doesn’t Care…UNLESS…

Have you every talked to your children about their future?

When I’ve talked to my kids, or even youth group members for which I was the youth minister (these are still ‘my kids”), I have been encouraging in my discussion with them. There are the obvious warnings, like staying away from drugs, keeping yourself pure for marriage, and staying away from credit cards. But in every conversation, I usually get around to saying, “it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as your relationship with God is strong and your guiding force.”

Have you ever said something like this? Has anyone ever said that to you?

The basic premise of this concept is that no matter what happens, as long as your relationship with God is intact, you will be OK.

I believe this concept wholeheartedly.

However, our culture regarding God has treated that relationship as if it is different than it truly is. We treat our relationship with God as if God cares tremendously about what job we pick, what school we go to, or whether or not we have a cold.

In trivial, temporal matters, God doesn’t care.

Before you throw me out, hear me out. I’m not saying God doesn’t care about us. God cares tremendously about each and every one of us. God wants us to care about Him and Our relationship with Him. But in this relationship, our perspective of what is important is often different than God’s perspective.

If you’re praying to God about what job you should choose or what career path you should travel, God cares more about the Kingdom and your contentment. Will you rely on and follow God in whatever career you choose? If the answer is “yes”, then it doesn’t matter to God which path you choose.

If you’re praying to God about what school to attend or what to name your child or who to marry, the question God seems to be asking instead is “will you honor Me no matter what?”

God is much more concerned with how you treat others and your involvement in the Kingdom and connection to Him forever than about some temporary thing…UNLESS…

UNLESS you are overcome with anger because of your own pride.

UNLESS you are overcome with a disgruntled spirit because you cannot find contentment in God.

UNLESS you stop loving those around you and yourself because you allow others to overshadow your relationship with God.

UNLESS you are in danger of leaving God altogether.

In these cases, God cares very much. He has sent His Spirit to live in us to help us overcome these temptations in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters around us.

If you want to know what God cares about, look at the kinds of prayers the church prayed in the Bible. Look at the answers given.

God cares about your boldness in the Holy Spirit to spread the message about His love for all people.

God cares about your love for others that drives away fear in spite of intimidating circumstances.

God cares about your salvation and theirs too.

God cares about the growth of His Kingdom of love.

Your cold? Only if it keeps you from doing His work. Your cancer? Only if it distracts you from the great promise you’ve been given in Jesus. Your job? Only if it has the potential of enticing you to leave Him.

When we begin to pray for things that God is concerned about, then we will see God use us in ways we never dreamed. Until then, we may get disgruntled when we pray for some temporal thing unrelated to the Kingdom, and God seemingly doesn’t answer. It’s all a matter of perspective. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and stop worrying about temporal things (Matthew 6) for godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6).


Einstein is Fishy

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This quote is hanging in my office. I love the sentiment. The idea that each person learns differently and has unique potential is spot on in my opinion.

Most of the time, when you see this quote, it is attributed to Einstein. Probably FALSE. The most likely source for this quote is actually an unknown author who wrote in the late 1800’s under the pen name Aesop Jr.

“Finding quotes on the internet is only slightly easier than making them up.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Do you ever feel stupid? Do you feel smart? What is the litmus test for determining the education level of a person?

One of my favorite movies is “Goodwill Hunting”. In this movie, a juvenile delinquent, who reads profusely, solves what was known as the unsolvable equation. His education was self-taught. He had a job as a janitor, but he was more proficient than many of the full-time students. Why? Because he invested himself in personal education.

I know many people who think they are smart but are very ignorant. I know others who feel stupid but are actually brilliant. Some people are naturally gifted one way or another to have perspective on certain topics, but in others, they are deficient. I once knew a genius who graduated high school as a freshman but couldn’t find his next class in a one-hall school. Intelligence is subjective to the matter being discussed.

So, all that discussion on education…how do you feel about your intelligence regarding our response to God and His word, the Bible?

Many people are truly ignorant of the Bible, but it is because they have never read it. Some people think they are knowledgeable of the Bible because they know what they’ve been taught for years, but they, too, never read it; they already know what’s in there. Some people read the Bible profusely, scrutinizing every word, but they, too, are ignorant of the Bible’s purpose.

Jesus said to the religious leaders, “You diligently search the scriptures because you think that in them you will find eternal life, but those very scriptures talk about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have eternal life.”

It is possible to do this today. It is not uncommon for people to get so caught up in how we are to do church and what doctrines are false or correct that we miss having a real relationship with Jesus. We spend time in the Bible to be able to answer questions and make arguments, not to fall in love with the author. We pray to ask God for stuff and intervention instead of just wanting to be in His presence. We fast to seek God’s….oh, wait. No, we don’t fast anymore.

We all want to feel smart about God and the Bible, but if we don’t know the author, then the intelligence we gain through reading words on a page is useless. Knowledge puffs up, and many people in the church are balloons. No wonder they pop at the slightest things that don’t fit their pre-conceived theology. When our foundation is merely knowledge, then things that challenge that knowledge challenge us. When relationship is our foundation, then there is little that can shake us from that foundation (Romans 8:35).

Let us all focus on growing in our love for Jesus and our knowledge of His love for us. May we see the scriptures as a map showing us God’s love and confirming our relationship with Him. And may we find security in this relationship that cannot be shaken when someone comes with a different argument that has no bearing on our relationship with the Father.


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.


Monday Through Saturday – Sunday Too

Why did you become a Christian? Were you looking for salvation from the wrong you’ve committed? Were you looking for inner peace and purpose? Were you looking for a way to overcome the grave? Were you trying to understand what science could not explain?

You became a Christian – you gave your heart to God through Jesus. But did you understand the implications of this transaction?

The whole bible is a long narrative that many people do not comprehend. So many people are looking at the small details of this law and that story and this church that they miss the bigger picture.

Man and God were in perfect relationship, but mankind cheated on God and broke the relationship. God worked diligently to show them a way back, but all ways before Jesus were tastes of that relationship. Then Jesus came and offered full restoration of the relationship between mankind and God. Now we have that relationship back, so we live in the kind of love we’ve been shown by God.

We’ve been given this relationship. Freely. Through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection.

Now God has chosen to take up residence, not in a temple in one location, but in each heart of each Christian. God is here. God is with us. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

We got salvation, but were we looking for relationship?

We want God when we are in trouble. We want Him to take away our sniffles and cure our diseases. We want Him to ease the pain of heartache and exact justice on our enemies. We want God to change the world.

God simply wants us. All of each of us.

Have you ever loved someone so much it didn’t matter what they did, you’d live them anyway? That’s how God loves us. That’s the relationship He wants us to experience in Him.

Then, as we experience and understand that relationship, we are given to worship Him. We worship Him because He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We worship Him because He, in all His majesty, desires relationship with us.

The worship we are called to is not Sunday morning worship service worship. That is one small part of the worship God desires from us. He has given so much for us; could we not, in return, offer Him all of our life in return? Worship is how we are to live. It isn’t simply an action we participate in once in a while.

When you fall in love with your significant other, your whole life revolves around them. Everything you do is to honor them. All you can think about is them. Is that how you react to God?

Everything you do, if you are a Christian, is done in the presence of God with God’s Spirit in you. When you speak life in others, you bring God glory. When you curse others, you bring Him shame. When you love, you reflect His goodness, yet when you hate, you misrepresent the One whose Name you confess. When you join together with other Christians, you recognize your part in His family. When you reject Christian community, you despise His gifts to you.

When you live in worship daily, you will be more committed to joining other Christians in worship weekly in a church building. However, when you make weekly gathering a priority in your life, you may find yourself encouraged to worship daily as well.

So, what shall we do? Pray to God constantly – recognizing your relationship with Him. Worship through actions that honor His Name in you. Gather with His family to experience His love through others who love by His Spirit living in them. Live in worship daily and so honor the One who did for you what you could not do for yourself.


Dodging Copperheads

When I was a boy, I loved to walk in the woods near our house. They held old trees and vines. There were ruins from the Civil War, and cypress trees, and right in the middle was a swamp teeming with nutrias.

One day, my friend an I were exploring through the woods, playing along the creek that fed the swamp. We each had machetes, because what boy doesn’t want to be dangerous? As we hopped along the cypress knees, my friend hollered for me to look down, and as I did, I saw something that gave me a fright! At my feet was a copperhead snake coiled up and reared back to strike!

In a split second I jumped, and it struck, both at the same time. As it struck (fortunately, just an inch or so in front of my leg), I swung my machete and took a chunk out of it’s back. I watched it slither away through the water and disappear under the root of a cypress tree growing in the creek.

It took me a couple minutes to regain my composure as my adrenaline flushed though my system. If I had been bitten, it would have meant certain hospitalization, and depending on the severity of the bite, some have even died from copperhead venom.

Have you ever had something dangerous sneak up on you like the snake did on me? Have you ever stepped into a dangerous situation accidentally?

The Bible says the devil is prowling around constantly, like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He is also a serpent in the garden looking for someone to trap into death.

Lately there have been many things happening in our world that cause us to react strongly within our minds. The school shootings in Florida, Kentucky, and even here in Aztec, NM are great examples. Government policy often creates emotional dissonance within us. Even the male commentator for figure skating at the olympics dressed like a girl has many expressing consternation.

It’s easy to have opinions. It’s easy to allow our emotions to control our reactions to situations. It’s easy for Satan to sneak right up and cause us to sin, creating moments of death in this world by our words and actions and attitudes.

We must be constantly on guard. We must monitor our responses to stimuli. We must react with love, not hate or division.

But how do we do that? James says the man who can control his tongue will be perfect in every way, because the tongue is a restless evil full of deadly poison (James 3:2, 6). How do you use your tongue when you are caught up in the emotional response to negative stimuli?

Maybe you need to distance yourself for a moment until you can calm down. Maybe you need to take a sabbatical from Facebook or other social media that is fostering so much division in our culture. Maybe you need to remember you do not have to respond at all.

It is better to remain silent than to murder someone with hateful speech (Matthew 5:21-22). For when we let our anger, our sinful impulses, control us, Satan saddles up and rides us all the way back to death (Ephesians 4:26-27).

If you’ve been guilty of letting your negative emotional response to some situation damage your relationship with others, you need to make amends (Matthew 5:23-24).

May we be people who speak life in this world, not letting the copperheads at our feet cause us to stray from the ways of Jesus.


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.


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