Monday, March 3, 2014
stress, depression, burnout, sexual problems, financial problems, and time management. It was an eye opening list that should concern all of us in the body of Christ. The demands on those who are called to the pastorate have grown considerably over the years with the fast pace of life.
In the book of Hebrews chapter 13:17, the author writes: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." When we complain or criticize our pastors, church leaders and elders, we are making their work more difficult. Rather than tearing them down, we ought to be daily lifting them up in prayer. Only God can work change in another person, and since they are accountable to God for the souls entrusted to their care, we need to be talking with the Lord daily on their behalf. Here are some practical ways we can pray: 1) Find out the day the pastor uses for sermon preparation and pray that God would assist him in his study. 2) Pray daily for the pastor and other leaders' families. Family issues are of a real concern for all leaders. 3) Pray for God's protection not only for our leaders but also for the flock that God would deliver them from evil and temptation. After all, Peter warned us that the enemy lurks around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. 4) Pray that our pastors and leaders would not be overwhelmed by their work, burned out, stressed, discouraged. Ask God to help them manage their time so that they can enjoy their family, friends and other activities. When we can, we should also send a card, email or text them a note of encouragement...they need that too. 5) Pray for our leaders and pastors to have quality devotion time for themselves that they might be fully equipped for good works each day.
Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus these words: "And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ..." (Ephesians 4:11-12). Our leaders and especially our pastors are a gift from Jesus Christ. Their purpose is to equip us to do the work of service so we can build up the Body of Jesus Christ which is the church. If we are constantly taking shots at them, we are actually hurting ourselves. Again, I believe that prayer is the key. If we wish to see church growth and powerful ministry, then, time on our knees will help this happen.
Our society is so celebrity driven that often we pick up worldly notions of what a pastor should be or what he should do. Often this is far removed from reality. No one can be at every place all the time or meet every single need. Our leaders and pastors are human beings that have the same struggles we all face. They have been called of God to minister to others. Just as they are called to account for the souls under their care, we will be called to account how we submitted to their leadership. Did we make their job hard or did we pray for them, encourage them, and work with them rather than against them? Granted, we may not always agree with them, but they are our brothers and sisters in Christ and should always be treated with respect in the love of Christ. Those elected to Deacon, Elder and Pastor have a calling on their lives. Let us make a habit of lifting them up to our heavenly Father and encouraging them that they can attain the goal of their high calling in our fellowship. This will bring a sweetness to the body of believers which is much better than the sour grapes we often hear about. Selah!
The photo above is courtesy of our son Aaron Thayer. It is the picture of the Greek Orthodox church near Naples, FL.
Friday, February 28, 2014
April 27, 1971 was the date that my husband and I committed our lives to Jesus Christ. I will never forget that evening as John Romano, campus director of Campus Crusade for Christ at The Ohio State University presented "The Four Spiritual Laws" to us. There were no fireworks or dramatic feelings that came when we prayed - only a calm assurance that we had repented of our sins and received the gift of salvation.
One of the most important elements in what John shared that evening was the diagram of a train.
Unfortunately, many people try to live by feelings instead of by faith which can lead to disaster or a roller coaster ride in our Christian walk. If they feel up, God is with them. By the same token, if they feel down, God has moved far away. Yet God does not move. Hebrews 13:8 reads: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." He is always with us and never leaves nor forsakes us. This is a promise from God's Word which is fact. Feelings change but God's Word will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). So if we are trying to walk in the faith of God's Word, what do we do when we go through difficult times?
According to the letter that James wrote to the church, he encourages us to count it all joy. In James 1:2, he writes: "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials." At first glance, we might think that we would have to pretend to be joyful during hard times; yet this is not what James means. Just as we can choose to frown or smile, we can choose to express joy or sorrow as well. Many of our responses are a matter of choice. James never said anything about "feel it all joy". Rather he told us to "count it all joy" When we praise God and express our hope and joy in Him, our feelings will follow. It is a matter of trusting His Word. The world system waits for feelings before they act but the Christian is to act in faith and the feelings will follow. Let me illustrate.
Someone asked me how I could smile since we recently lost our grandson. I replied that I know our grandson is with Jesus safe and sound. I also know I will see him again one day because I trust in Christ. Do I have moments that I am sad? Yes. However, my faith is not built on feelings which are going to fluctuate when there is a loss. Instead, I am depending on God to heal, comfort and restore me and my entire family. Spending time in God's Word since this loss has built up my faith which in turn is bringing restoration to my emotions. It will take time, but we serve a mighty God.
From time to time, our faith will be tested by the trials of life. If we are putting the fact of God's truth (His Word) first, we will be able to pull the train of our life. We just need to remember that feelings come and go, but they do not form the basis for our faith...God's Word does. May God help us remember this simple train diagram as we travel the track of this life. He will bring us home safely! Selah!
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
When I consider my own life, I remember a number of statements I made with an air of certainty like: "I never want to marry someone from Defiance, Ohio "(they were our football rivals in high school). "I never want to move away from my hometown of Napoleon, Ohio" or "I will never eat tomatoes and enjoy it." To make a long story short - I married a wonderful man from Defiance, Ohio, we moved to Florida 35 years ago, and I enjoy eating tomatoes! See what I mean? We put ourselves out on a limb every time we make a vow that we will never do this thing or that. This is one reason the Bible tells us not to swear by heaven or earth concerning any matter in James 5:12: "But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation." This verse tells us what the danger is in making absolute statements. If we violate what we make an oath on, we are being hypocritical and possibly even sinning.
Unfortunately Peter fell into this trap. Of course, Peter was always saying something dramatic, and often missing the mark. However, on this one occasion, he really over estimated his ability to avoid temptation and fell into a trap of his own making.
Following the "Last Supper" with his disciples, Jesus told them what would happen. In Matthew 26:31, Jesus said: "...You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'" Then, in verse 33, we read Peter's absolute statement: "Peter answered Him, 'Though they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away.'" To this pronouncement, Jesus answered: "....Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times" (verse 34b). Still, Peter continued to push his statement of loyalty by saying once more: "'...Even if I must die with You, I will not deny you!' And all the disciples said the same" (verse 35).
Without a doubt, Peter and the other disciples desired to stay loyal to their Lord. However, they
Certainly vowing that we are never going to eat something or dress in a certain way do not rise to the level of Peter's denial, but looking at this story serves an important purpose to warn us against making an absolute statement that we, in our own strength, cannot keep. Instead of making a rash vow, we would be better off to say we prefer one thing over another and leave it at that. Or as James says "let your yes be yes and your no be no".
Our daughter now delights in all the pretty dresses and frills that come with being the mother of a pretty little girl even as I did when she was little. Lets face it, we all can change our minds given time and experience. Likewise, we live under God's sovereign purpose and will for our lives. We live to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. That's why we need to simply say "yes" or "no" rather than making those "I will never".... statements. Today, my prayer is that God will help us follow His lead wherever it may take us. Selah!