Monday’s Ministry Encouragement: Written to encourage you, my friend in ministry, to be refreshed and renewed as we live for Christ and look toward the Bema.
Yesterday was a glorious day as we celebrated in many ways the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! Preparation for the day came with much expectation, exerted energy, intense planning and the involvement of many people.
In today’s social media world, anyone can become a celebrity in a matter of seconds! Post a video or tweet or reel that grabs the attention of many in a short span of time, and you can have “rock start” status!
A word of caution, if I may . . . there is only one celebrity, one individual that is worthy of undivided attention, one person that is to be lauded, followed and worshipped. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).
There is only one celebrity!
If we are truly born again (John 3:1-18), a follower of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:26), then He lives in us to live His life out of us (John 14:20; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). This is the preeminent status for us in this life! This is who we really are.
Therefore, let’s be careful when and if our numbers begin to climb that our pride is not stroked by how many followers or commenters we have. Any influence in this world we have only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit as He exalts the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory and honor of God the Father!!
Remember the words of John the Baptist . . . He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
Faithfulness and loyalty to God is much more important than being a celebrity.
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)
My dad had many sayings. When my friends and I got rowdy as a kid, he would sometimes utter, “You boys need to settle down.”
Now in my 60’s and having been exposed to so much in the Christian and religious world for these years, could we as pastors/Christian leaders just settle down?
My background is one of . . . growing up in a pastor’s home (My dad was Church of the Nazarene until his Army days in Korea, and then came to understand the security of believer in Christ, thanks to a godly chaplain who taught him the Word!); The Wilds Christian Camp (Doc Hay, Rock Royer, Major Brooks, etc.); Bob Jones University (college and seminary plus a host of its graduates including all of its presidents to date, Bible Conference speakers, faculty, etc.); Tennessee Temple University graduates; the Sword of the Lord crowd; my Southern Baptist grandfather who pastored in Kentucky and southwest Virginia; the GARBC; the many men who fellowshipped in what was for years known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (Now Foundations Baptist Fellowship); Dallas Theological Seminary grads; being mentored personally by the likes of J.B. Williams, J. Robert Martin, Randy Patten, Reynold Lemp and many others; plus being influenced from a distance by the likes of Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Adrian Rogers, Henry Blackaby, David Jeremiah, and more.
In more recent years, my background continues to be of the many mentioned above plus Men’s Prayer Advance, 9Marks, T4G, CoRE Conferences, plus many, many books authored by Tripp, Ortlund, Wells, Bridges, Payne & Marshall, Thomas, Huegal, Ryrie, Walvord, Pickering, etc.
“What’s the point?’, you may ask.
Well, I want to say that for all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out; none of us knows all the facts about everyone or every situation; none of us know more than our God; none of us have the absolute right methodology; none of us are the standard; and none of us have arrived!
For all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out . . . none of us have arrived!
We all come from various backgrounds and are all influenced by a diverse group of people, churches, institutions and movements, but we are saved by grace through faith alone in the cross work and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are one in Christ. We are made complete in Christ. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are children of the living God!
Therefore, understanding that there are clear, biblical points of separation and the application thereof, such as preeminently, the Gospel (Galatians 1:1-10), may I say that we need to . . .
Give one another the benefit of the doubt.
Be gracious and kind.
Stop making fun of our brothers on social media whether you agree with him or not. (No wonder the lost world doesn’t want our Jesus, seeing the way we lampoon one another.)
Throw away our Pharisaical microscope.
Give one another space to grow in sanctification.
Cheer our brother on when he’s down. When revival breaks out where he pastors but not where you serve, rejoice and praise God with him!
Personally call up the brother we have issue with instead of talking about him behind his back or on social media.
Exchange the time of criticizing and posting for time on our knees in prayer.
Let God handle error by His righteous standard rather than us being “the enforcer.”
Meet with your brother for coffee; get to know him and disciple each other.
Confess and repent of our arrogance and pride.
Remember, we will live forever together in Glory!
Throw away your Pharisaical microscope.
In times past, I have jokingly said, for instance to a group of four men, “There are only four people in the world that’s perfect. That’s me and you three, and . . . I am doubtful about you three!”
Proverbs 22:4 recently challenged my heart again . . . By humility and the fear of the LORD (not man) are riches and honor and life.
May I suggest that we soak our soul often in the truths of Colossians 1:15-18 and go deep in meditation and prayer in Philippians 1:1-2:18?
Let’s join Paul in prayer . . . And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Since the heart is perverse and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), can it be changed?
Can our deceitful heart be transformed into a truthful heart?
Can our our hypocritical heart be converted into a holy heart?
Can our idolatrous heart be changed into a worshipping heart for God?
Yes! The heart of change is having the heart of Christ.
The heart in scripture represents all that we are. As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man (Proverbs 27:19). It’s our inner person (Proverbs 4:23; Ephesians 3:16-17). The functions of the biblical heart involve your will, emotions, spirit or soul and mind.
To have the heart of Christ is to first of all be born again (Read John 3:1-18; Regeneration).
Second, to have the heart of Christ is learn of His heart as you study His earthly life from (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the Christ-life (Romans 6-8; Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) as the Holy Spirit reveals Him to you (John 16:12-15).
While sitting on my back porch meeting with the Lord as I read His Word, the Holy Spirit revealed Christ’s heart to me again. As I began to read Luke 15, a passage of three parables about lost things Jesus used to answer the accusations of the Pharisees, a statement from the Pharisees about Christ spoke to my heart. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives/welcomes sinners and eats with them” (15:2).
Why does Jesus welcome sinners; those who are lost? Luke 19:10 says, For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
At that moment the thought came to me, “The heart of Christ is to receive, to welcome sinners who are broken in their sin, hell-bound and without hope.”
Then I was reminded of Bill Pickel, a man who lived out the heart of Christ, and it could have been said of him, “He received sinners and ate with them.”
During my junior and senior years of college, I served as youth and music leader at a church in upstate South Carolina. Every weekend I would stay at the Pickel’s home. Often he was not home, sometimes arriving back home around 2-3:00 in the morning.
Why? He was out spending time at some local beer joint . . . loving, listening, caring, and sharing with sinners the Good News of Jesus Christ. Sometimes he brought these broken men into his home for a meal or a bed. Many of them he saw humble themselves before the Lord, repent of their sins, and receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
Yes, Bill was criticized by the “religious Pharisees” because he had the audacity to found in a beer joint. Nevertheless, Bill chose to live out the Christ-life and “eat with sinners.”
What have you learned about the heart of Christ today as you gazed into His Word? But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).
What has the Holy Spirit revealed to you today of Christ? How has the Holy Spirit worked in your heart to bear the fruit of Christ through your life (Galatians 5:22-23)? He can do the same in your life as He did in Bill Pickel’s life.
The lyrics of a favorite song in our home when our girls were young said, “Change my heart, O God. Make it ever new. Change my heart, O God, make it more like you.”
“The past two years have been my worst ever in all these years of ministry.”
“What’s the use?”
“The financial struggle has gotten the best of me.”
“I didn’t know so-called Christians could be so mean!”
“My family has gone through hell!”
“Loneliness in ministry is severe.”
These and a hundred more statements have been heard and made by pastors over the years, some recently and others frequently.
Pastor, I am right there with you.
Many years ago in a ministry in another state, the deacon chairman lived directly across the street from the parsonage. He and wife watched us “like a hawk.” They rose up against my wife and me, even leading others to join them. At seemingly my wit’s end one morning, my wife standing in the bedroom with me, I grabbed a pillow from the bed, hurled it across the room, and yelled, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!
Now, some thirty years later, many more blessings than battles, I can say, “I made it, and we are continuing to make it, take it, move forward, . . . all by the sufficient grace and unfathomable love of God, plus the multiplied “ravens” (e.g. Elijah, 1 Kings 17) He has sent our way.
Pastor, may I help you today?
Perhaps one of the things that is “killing you” today, breaking down your body, and harming your marriage and family as well as the ministry is your own set of expectations.
Psalm 62:5, My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation (my hope) is from Him.
Can you honestly say that?
Who or what sets your expectations?
That “To Do” list that never is completed?
Some church members/board or your perceived/assumed viewpoint of the church members’ thoughts about you?
Your false identity that you think you have to live up to as being the “man of God”?
Your own deceptive heart?
That “super conference” you just attended and heard of many success stories?
Your Twitter feed?
Your recent track of success that must be continued or you will look like a failure?
That text notification you just received?
Your idea of being “superman” pastor who never takes a day off?
A sense of guilt when you do take a day off?
Wanting to perform every Sunday, being on your “A” game?
Pastor friend, may I suggest two things?
Please take some time to rest; learn to rest. Most pastors do not know how to “take their foot off the accelerator.” Ministry is 24/7, even on vacation. Nevertheless, you need to set in your calendar a morning or day to rest during the week as well as at least four times a year go away to a cottage or some other get-away to, yes, get away! You are worn out! Even when you do take a vacation, it takes three days to unwind, then you haven’t taken the upcoming Sunday off, so you are back in “get ready to preach, get prepared for Sunday mode,” and you have not properly rested your body and soul. If you don’t learn to rest, you are headed for potential failure, a downfall in ministry. I will write more about this in the days ahead.
Wherever you go to rest, take a list of any of the expectations mentioned above, adding those from your own personal collection and lay them before the Lord in honest, crying out, transparent, conversational (you talk and then listen to God) prayer. Find a place by the lake, along the hiking trail, at the dock, on your back deck, someplace you can be alone. undistracted. Wherever you are, honestly talk out loud to the Lord about each one of these. Christ is your Shepherd and the Head of the Church. He’s your intercessor. Let Him redirect your focus, your motives, your goals, your passions, your dreams, your heart!! Be sure to write in a journal what He reveals to you and add the scriptures He brings to your mind for each one. Don’t be in a hurry! Leave your cell phone alone, please. Don’t use it to search the scriptures. Bring a printed Bible with you.
Pastor, go to the cross, then the empty tomb, and settle in at the Throne. Don’t be in a hurry at either place. Rest there awhile and soak your soul in Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 8 and Hebrews 12:1-3.
You see, when your expectations come from God, He gives grace to accomplish His will (Philippians 2:13), and He’s responsible for the outcome.
Several years ago, I heard that question posed and answered this way, “What is this world coming to? This world is coming to Jesus!”
Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Indeed, the day in coming when the saints and angels in heaven, everyone on earth, and the devil, his hosts and those in hell below, will bow before Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord, as Savior, as King, as Sovereign over the universe and mankind.
The above stated question is also asked by many believers day-after-day. The answer is the same.
No matter the craziness, chaos, perplexities, or “jaw-dropping-moments” of life, the preeminent response is always “come to Jesus” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Open your Bible. Look into the face of Christ. He gives you saving and sanctifying rest as you learn from Him through meditation and memorization. This exchanges the human viewpoint of life with divine viewpoint that “sets you free” (John 8:31-32) and appropriates the peace of God which will rule in your heart (Colossians 3:15).
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
A man is not a murderer because he kills; he kills because he is a murderer.
For out of the heart come murders (Matthew 15:19).
A man is not an adulterer because he cheats on his wife; he cheats on his wife because he is an adulterer.
For out of the heart comes adultery (Matthew 15:19).
A man is not sexually immoral because he preys on children; he preys on children because he is sexually immoral.
For out of the heart comes sexual immorality (Matthew 15:19).
A man is not a thief because he steals; he steals because he is a thief.
For out of the heart comes theft (Matthew 15:19).
A man is not a slanderer because he gossips; he gossips because he is a slanderer.
For out of the heart comes slander (Matthew 15:19).
The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.
The “heart” as described in scripture is who you really are. So, in this Matthew passage, we see where Jesus puts his finger on the culprit of every sinful behavior . . . our corrupt, deceitful, desperately wicked heart (Jeremiah 17:9).
Jesus said to the Pharisees, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (Matt. 26:25-26)
The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.
“Jesus teaches us that there is something far more fundamental to our sinfulness than the actual sins we commit,” Tom Ascol goes on to say. “Our sins do not make us sinful. Rather, we commit sins because, at the very center of our lives, we are sinful. Sin has invaded the inner recesses of our personalities.”
We can spend hours discussing the recent events of our world and try to come up with man-made answers and “band-aid” solutions to the murders in 2022, the war in Ukraine, the angry outbursts and ungodly actions from political leaders, the trafficking of humans, the abortion of babies, and the continual sinful behavior displayed daily on our phones and ipads, but the answer and solution is only found in the Word of God.
Sinful man must have a changed, transformed heart through the power of the gospel (John 3; Romans 3:9-23; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Once he repents and believes in Christ alone for salvation (Romans 10:9-13), the Holy Spirit comes to indwell that man whereby he is now able to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of his heart/flesh (Galatians 5:18-24; Romans 6-8).
Much, much more to be said, but I’ll end with a word of great hope:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:2-4)
My soul melts from heaviness (Psalm 119:28a). This describes my heart since Sunday afternoon.
The heaviness that has come over me because of the effects of sin.
The grief that has gripped me due to the deep deceitfulness of our wicked hearts.
Wednesday around 2:00 a.m. I was abruptly awakened out of my sleep, praying out loud for the many drowning in sorrow in Uvalde, Texas as well as those picking up the pieces from the SBC/Guidepost report released Sunday afternoon. As I thought of those precious elementary children, I thought also of my dear grandsons.
Oh Lord, strengthen me according to Your Word!!!
As I rolled out of bed, I grabbed my phone on the night stand and went to Wednesday’s scripture reading from Psalm 119:41-48. I needed strength! I needed to hear from the Lord! I needed my heart to be calmed!
Let Your mercies (lovingkindness, steadfast love) come also to me, O Lord— Your salvation according to Your word. (Psalm 119:41)
These were the first words I read. How marvelous to know that God has extended mercy and grace to me as a poor, lost, hell-bound sinner and has rescued me according to the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Timothy 1:12-17) . . . according to Your word.
You see, for true salvation and assurance of eternal life in heaven, for our wicked hearts to be changed, for sin to be correctly and adequately dealt with, for quietness in our soul in the midst of such wickedness and sorrow, for an understanding of perilous times, to have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” . . . it can only and always be . . . according to Your Word.
Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (Psalm 119:49-50).