Monday, March 31, 2014

Fluffy Pudding

     On special occasions like birthdays and other events, I enjoy cooking a meal for the family.  This past year, our daughter Jordan requested that I make a chocolate mousse for dessert for one of our special dinners.  Never having made this, I turned to "Google" to find a recipe.  Of course, there were many to choose from but I selected one that seemed relatively easy.  It turned out well, and everyone enjoyed it.  For those of you who are unacquainted with mousse, it is like a fluffy version of pudding.  There is a lighter texture to it.  My father never cared for what he termed "whipped" pudding.  He loved the heavier, richer type of puddings that would stick with your taste buds longer.  These recollections came to mind as I thought about what is happening in many fellowships around our nation.
     There appears to be "fluffy pudding" teaching in some gatherings or what I call "church light".  This type of teaching appeals to everyone, is user friendly, not much substance (maybe a scripture here and there), and is designed to motivate/encourage rather than instruct and challenge.  Much of this revolves around our feelings rather than the Word of God and on our doing works as a means of growing closer to God instead of doing good works because we are accepted in Christ already.
     In my current issue of a Christian book magazine, there are dozens of books that deal with our emotions, how to be happy in our job, and how to have a happy marriage.  These are all good subjects, but what's wrong with reading the Bible?  Isn't that the place to find many answers to our questions.  To give a personal example, I have recently read two books about loss.  One, written by Dr. John McArthur entitled "Safe in the Arms of God", is loaded with scripture and points to the comfort of  God's Word in dealing with the death of a child.  The other book by Philip Yancey entitled "The Question that Never Goes Away - Why" left me looking for a reason as to why I was reading it.  He dealt with the terrible Japanese Tsunami that killed so many, the Newtown massacre, and the genocide that occurred in the former Yugoslavia.  These were terrible events, but I found little scriptural answers there.
     As I thought about some of the "fluffy" teaching that abounds today, I could not help but think of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.  Certainly, in his first letter, he was addressing a church that was dealing with sin, conflicts and division...not unlike churches today.  His purpose was to bring some correction so they could get back on track once again.  In I Corinthians 3:1-2, Paul writes:  "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, spiritual infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.  Indeed, even now you are not able to receive it."  While these believers had been under Paul's ministry before, they had not grown since that time.  They were still acting like spiritual infants only able to handle the basic truth of the faith.  God's plan for them and for us is to move towards spiritual maturity through the study of His Word, sound preaching and a life of prayer.  If any of this is neglected, we, too, will be eating pablum and drinking milk like the Corinthians and be fair game for false teachers.
     In the book of Hebrews, the author writes these words to the believers:  "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:12-14).  The author points out that by hearing the Word of God through training our senses we are able to mature in Christ.  Unfortunately, if we are listening only to the messages which soothe our emotions, make us feel good,  and leave us comfortable, we will not grow.  The Christian life is found in the narrow way not the broad way which leads to destruction.  It is not an easy life but it is a fulfilling life because God changes us.
     My dad liked regular pudding because it stuck to the taste buds longer, filled him up and satisfied him better than the fluffy mousse.  So it is with the Word of God and sound teaching.  It sticks to your ribs so much better and lasts longer when we partake of the solid food found in God's Word.  I fear that many are "dull of hearing" as it says in Hebrews 5:11 and would rather just drink milk and float along with the latest trends, authors, and happenings on the Christian scene.  After all, digging deep into God's Word requires too much effort.  Unfortunately, this does not lead to maturity.  Jesus said it well when He told us in John 15:5:  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
     We will not find the answers within our selves and we cannot work harder to earn our salvation.  Instead, we must put aside the fluffy teaching and dig deeper into the Bible.  It holds the truth we need for life.  As we pray over God's Word, He will help us by the power of the Holy Spirit to grow into maturity which is His plan for us.   This is my prayer for the church, for individual Christians and for myself.  The days are evil and we need to be ready when the bridegroom comes for the wedding feast of the Lamb.  Let us make certain we trim our lamps with the oil of His Word daily and avoid the "fluffy" stuff.  Selah!

Picture of Chocolate Mousse pie courtesy of Kelly at Wiki Commons

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Outside My Window

     Sitting near my front window and observing the activity at my bird feeder has been one of the quiet joys of my life.  Many beautiful birds come to visit along with a number of pesky squirrels who enjoy the free food.  However, the other day, I had an opportunity to watch a real life drama play out before me.
     In our neighborhood, we have a few feral cats that are always on the prowl for food.  One in particular, a calico, likes to come near the bird feeder to see if he can snatch a meal.  Most of the
time, the birds are too quick for him, but on this particular day, there were two fearless squirrels who dared the cat to do anything to them.  Each time the cat would advance closer, the squirrels would scamper up the tree.  When the cat got within six feet of the tree, one of the silly squirrels came down to munch on the seeds which had fallen on the ground.  The cat lay motionless for the longest time but I knew he was watching every move the squirrel was making.  Finally, when the squirrel had his back turned towards the cat, the calico ran full speed to get him.  He barely escaped and ran up another tree.  Not to be thwarted, the calico sat at the base of this tree, and wouldn't you know?  The squirrel ran down the other side and started to make a run for the bushes with the cat hot on his trail.  I could see the shrubs moving violently for a moment.  I don't know what the outcome was unfortunately, but if the squirrel escaped, it would have been a miracle.  Now what would prompt a squirrel to take a chance like that?  He practically invited the cat to chase him.  Perhaps he missed the lesson on avoiding predators, but for whatever reason, he was playing with fire.  This is not unlike some of us who seem to walk as near to danger and temptation as we can without falling into it.
     Peter's letter talks about our adversary and warns us to take heed.  I Peter 5:8 reads:  "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour..."  In this warning, Peter reminds us that Satan is keeping a watch on anyone who would stray from the sheepfold.  He cannot snatch our soul that belongs to God, but he can trip us up.  Therefore, Peter warns Christians to be sober and vigilant.  We are to keep a watch so that we will not be surprised.
     Having watched a good number of nature programs on the Discovery Channel, it is no surprise to me how very determined, powerful, and fast a hungry lion is when he sees an easy target.  He lays in wait hoping that his prey will let his guard down.  Then he pounces and runs full speed to capture the animal for his meal.  In the same way, Satan prowls around with restless energy seeing whom he can chew up and spit out.  Often the result can be a damaged reputation or a decimated ministry.
      Recently, there have been a number of those in ministry who have had to step down due to improprieties of a personal nature,  and others who are still ministering but are like the walking wounded as a result of their sin.  Certainly, our adversary will show no mercy in any field of combat. This is why it is crucial to pray daily, read God's Word and seriously prepare every day by putting on the full  armor of God (read Ephesians 6:10-18).  Verse 11 of that chapter reads:  "Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil."
     As for the squirrel, I do not know the outcome of that serious chase, but he certainly played loose with his safety.  When it comes to us, we have been warned a number of times about our enemy who would like nothing better than to have us on the injured reserve list rather than in the game.  God help us to keep our eyes on the goal of our high calling in Christ and our feet solidly planted in the Bible so that we may act with God's wisdom.  Selah!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What on Earth is Panentheism?

     In my last blog entry, I wrote about the importance of identifying false teachers that can creep into the sheepfold.  The damage they can do to up-end a believer's faith is enormous, so the Lord Jesus Christ told us to look at their fruit.  In this way, we might be able to identify them.  Because their approach makes them look like a solid teacher, we have to look at the totality of their lives.  Likewise, we need to be aware of what they are communicating.  Today, a number of churches (and teachers) have replaced clear biblical exegesis, statements of faith, and systematic theology with feelings, impressions, mysticism and incorporated ideas which come from the New Age or Eastern religions.  This is the subtlety of the Enemy.  Remember the serpent did not come out and tell Eve she should ignore God and eat the fruit.  Instead, he planted some doubts in her mind and allowed her to come to the conclusion that she was missing something.  This is how he uses false teachers.  With this in mind, an idea has crept into the teaching and writing of leaders who are popular in the church today:  panentheism.
     When I first heard the word panentheism, I shook my head not having the slightest idea what this worldview was.  I had heard the term pantheism knowing that believers (Eastern religions) feel that God IS everything.  God is the tree, the river, the squirrel on the tree etc.  So the pantheist believes that the natural world is divine.  By contrast, those who embrace panentheism believe that God is IN everything of nature.  This is a popular view held by New Age believers and the emergent church circles.  With this point of view, God can be discovered and understood by encounters with nature.  However, that is simply not true.  God stands apart from His creation.  Psalm 19:1 reads:  "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork."  Creation draws attention to the mighty God who made it all.  Yet, later in the Psalm, we read in verses 7-8:  "The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."  It is not nature that changes the soul, but the Word of God that points to Him.
After all, we live in a fallen world where even nature is fallen as well.  Nature serves as general revelation but not saving knowledge of God.  Romans 1:20-23 furthers this idea:  "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even  though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures."
     As we examine this passage from Romans, Paul is saying that salvation does not come from this general revelation but from special revelation.  General revelation shows God's creative power to make man aware, but does not provide the salvation message.  The pagan, who believes in a religion of God in nature, seeks messages from God through nature, moments in time, mysticism, feeling, intuition rather than the revealed Word of God.  Do we recognize how subtle this is?  There is a difference between discerning something through the power of the Holy Spirit and having a "feeling" about something.  Discernment, which is a gift of God, relies upon His Word while a "feeling" can often be based upon our own perspective of life.  We are called to live by faith in His Word not feelings based on ever changing emotions.
      While the concept of God IN everything might be confused with God's omnipresence, they are two different things.  God is everywhere.  He is not limited spatially as we are.  In contrast, Panentheism says that God's essence or being is in everything.  If that is true, then there would be nothing special about Jesus Christ and this is precisely what New Agers teach.  However, when you look at God's Word, nature does not reveal God's glory or his character the way Jesus Christ does.  Jesus spoke the inerrant, infallible Word of God which will stand as our judge one day, but the elements of nature do no such thing nor can they.
     Two characteristics of God that are important to keep straight in our thinking is that God is immanent (He is close at hand) and He is transcendent (over and above all His creation, Isaiah 57:15).  He is not in the tree, the flower or the sun.  He is not in the unsaved person either.  However, He comes into our hearts when we come to Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9).  It is important to keep these distinctions focussed so we are not thrown off by those who say that God is in everyone.  Yes, we are all made in God's image, but He does not indwell us until we profess our faith in Christ.  The New Age, mystics and the emergent church have all picked up ideas like universalism (everyone is saved) as well as panentheism which serves to muddy the waters.  This is why it is so very critical to be in God's Word on a regular basis.  His Word is truth.  No writer, teacher, pastor, or leader should be taken at face value.  Instead, we are to be students of the Word and examine what we hear, read, and see on the basis of this foundation.
     Ideas have consequences especially when they are not based on the Bible, and it is so easy to be swayed by false teachers who sound so good.  Because we live in a time when information travels at the speed of light, we must take the time to examine ourselves and the teachers we listen to that we can be certain we are walking in the light and not in the shadow of deception.  Selah!

If you would like to read about specific false teachers, Tim Challies at has an interesting series going at the present time.  I pray you are not confused on this issue but will be built up by what I have written.  Feel free to email me or comment if you have questions.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Beware False Teachers

   For well over a year now, our Sunday School class has been studying Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones book entitled "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount".  If I could commend a book worthy of time and effort, it would be this one.  No one has ever made this sermon delivered by our Savior more clear than Dr. Lloyd-Jones.  I find myself deeply convicted at how I live for Christ.
     In our study for this week, we covered a topic that is very pertinent to all of us today.  The scripture given is found in Matthew 7:15-20:  "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."  Unfortunately, false teachers are as much present today as they were in the days of the early church.  This is why this warning is so important for us to consider.  So, the next question is how do we recognize a false teacher?
     Many people think they would be easy to distinguish; however, this is not necessarily true.  Their conduct is not outrageous, but to the contrary, as Dr Lloyd-Jones describes, a false teacher is often someone who is very pleasant, nice and appears to be a Christian to the core.  His general teaching is all right, and the terminology he uses also would identify him as a Christian teacher.  The problem for us is that there seems to be nothing glaringly wrong, but remember what our Lord advised us in His sermon:  "you will know them by their fruits."  A person's teaching and their life cannot be separated and this is one aspect we need to keep in mind as we examine someone in ministry.  As we listen to their teaching, we must look beneath the surface to see what they are not saying as much as what they do say.  Often they skip over things like "sin", "hell", God's wrath, and moral accountability for our actions.  Instead, they emphasize a comforting message about God's love that pleases everyone.  In some ways, we could say that a false teacher is all things to all men.
      When it comes to doctrine, we will find that a false teacher almost never emphasizes this in his/her message.  They never get down to particularizing their belief system but keep things somewhat vague.  Discussion of righteousness, holiness, and justice are absent.  He/she doesn't say they don't believe this but they do not bring it up.  Again, they mainly center on God's all encompassing love.  In the words of Dr. Lloyd-Jones:  "To conceal the truth is as reprehensible and as damnable as to proclaim an utter heresy; and that is why the effect of such teaching is that of a 'ravening wolf'" (Page 502 "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount").
     Another keynote deletion from their message is just how serious sin is to our soul.  These teachers never tell us we are perfect but they downplay sin.  Likewise, they never emphasize our utter helplessness in coming to God nor do they talk in depth about the work of Christ as our substitute on the cross.  Yes, they may talk about Jesus, His death and His example, but often he/she merely sentimentalizes about the Lord.  They never preach the "offense of the cross" as Paul did.
     In addition, a false teacher never emphasizes repentance.  His approach is the wide gate that Jesus spoke of and the goal is to get as many through that gate by making a decision for Christ which doesn't emphasize how black our hearts really are or how deep our sin is. The numbers of decisions are what counts to the false teacher.  By contrast, Dr. Lloyd-Jones said that this flies in the face of the early Puritans like George Whitefield and others who made men tremble in their boots for days and weeks over their sin.  Their turning from sin was real, deep and lasting.
     Finally, a false teacher never discusses the absolute necessity of living a holy life.  The narrow way is not what he/she teaches.  Instead, their form of holiness matches that of the Pharisees.  It is
easy believe-ism without great demands.  A false teacher rarely talks about self-examination either but simply says "Look to Jesus".  It is good to keep our eyes on the Lord but we are also instructed to examine ourselves and see if there is any wicked way in us.
     Today, there are any number of teachers out there that talk about morals, emotions, feelings, mysticism, the love of God.  However, we are called to look at their fruit.  Examine what they are saying.  Does it line up with God's Word?  Are they telling the whole story of salvation and how black our sins are or are they merely making us feel comfortable and better about ourselves?  Paul, in speaking to Timothy, predicted the rise of these kinds of teachers when he wrote this in 2 Timothy 4:3:  "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."  We are called to be vigilant and to heed the wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  May we be well equipped by knowing God's Word to inspect the fruit of a teacher to know if what they say is based on His truth.  Selah!

Photography by Aaron Thayer at Naples Botanical Garden.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Grace in Hard Places

   Somewhere along the course of my growing up years in the church, my parents, Sunday School teachers and pastors taught me to recite for memory The Lord's Prayer, The Apostle's Creed, and the 23rd Psalm.  In fact, in high school French class, I learned the 23rd Psalm in French for memory.  It was a class assignment and I can still repeat it.  However, in recent days, I have found this Psalm more comforting than merely an assignment to memorize.
     As Christians, we tend to think of life as being sequential.  When God allows testing, trials or trouble into our life, we tend to think He will follow it by carrying us away to the green pastures where we will rest by still waters, eat at a lavish banquet, have an overflowing cup and spend eternity with the Lord.  While these things surely do come to pass in the life of a believer, the truth is that it doesn't happen after a difficult time but often occurs while we are going through the pain.
     Never have I found this to be more true than during the time that we lost our grandson.  Receiving the news of his unexpected death was a blow to us all.  Yet, underneath these painful circumstances were the Everlasting Arms of God.  The Good Shepherd of our souls held us up and walked us to the green pasture to rest.  God provided more than a lavish feast by bringing in lots of food to assist when the family most needed it, and when the time came to lay this child to rest and celebrate his life, the Lord walked with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  God's comfort has been amazing as He has used scores of His people to bring comfort, care, and provision all along the way.
     Whether in the loss of a loved one or some other traumatic circumstance, we can count on God's presence with us to guide, guard and lead us.  It has been my experience throughout life that when I am facing a trial I seek out God more in prayer and look to His Word for the answers.  As I do both of these things, His peace helps me find the strength I need.
     In addition to the 23rd Psalm, a pastor introduced me to scripture I cling too during the trials of life.  It is found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also is our comfort abundant in Christ...."  This is a biblical pay it forward for us.  We are to help and comfort others with the same comfort with which Christ has brought us comfort.  Notice that Paul wrote that we share the sufferings of Christ which are ours in abundance.  There is no denying the difficulties of walking in this world when we are citizens of heaven.  However, Christ supplies the abundant comfort.  He is our "Good Shepherd" who leads us beside the still waters and allows us rest along the way in the green pastures just when we need it.
     During my life, I have come to realize that while we are not spared sorrow or loss, God is, at the same time, filling us with the Holy Spirit, the ultimate comforter promised to us by Jesus before His ascension.  Our greatest time of experiencing Psalm 23 or 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 is not after we get past the trials but during them.  It is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit that fills our cup to overflowing at the time when we are not certain we can go on.  That type of comfort is beyond any understanding to those outside of Christ.
     None of us look for tragedies in life.  However, when they do come along, remember that God will provide for us the sustenance, quiet and protection we need to see us through.  Even more, He will walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  I have seen this and know it to be true.  I encourage you if you have never memorized the 23rd Psalm or 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 to do so during this time of reflection before Easter.  There is such joy in hiding God's Word in your heart.  Selah!

Photography courtesy of Aaron Thayer at Naples Botanical Gardens

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reconciliation - The Great Transaction

Everleigh Grace
   Last week, when Lent began, I was busy babysitting our daughter's two children Gavin (41/2) and Rilyn (almost two) while she was having a third addition to her family little Everleigh Grace.  My husband and I kept their home running smoothly and visited the hospital as often as possible.  Unfortunately, I came home with a cold.  However, I would not trade a moment with those children.
     At present,  my body is trying hard to reconcile itself or as an accountant would say, "Bring it back into balance."  That requires rest, lots of fluids and time.  Viruses often have to run their course, but God created our immune system to help speed things up.  In fact, God is also good to bring about the ultimate in healing through a different type of reconciliation.
     Most of us know someone or have experienced for ourselves a break in a relationship.  It might be a falling out with a friend, a loved one or a break-up in a marriage.  All of these situations are painful,  and we long for reconciliation to occur.  Often, we go to great lengths to make this happen, but none of us has gone as far as God did when He sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins.
     From the time that Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden, we have all inherited a sin nature. We have been estranged from God, rebellious, selfish, controlling and wanting our own way.  Yet even in the Garden, God told Adam and Eve that a redeemer would come who would crush the head of the Serpent (Satan) reconciling man to God.
     In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul wrote these words (Romans 5:8-11):  "...but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."  Did you catch the wording? We have been reconciled by Christ to God!  His sacrifice on the cross opened the gateway to a relationship with God once more.
     Salvation is not a do-it-yourself kind of process.  Rather, God did it all for us.  He regenerates us so we can see and hear the Good News of Christ and answer the call to repent of our sins.  When we call upon the Lord to forgive us and receive His gift of salvation, we belong to Christ as Lord.  His
Papa holding Everleigh, Daddy CJ holding Rilyn
and Gavin
righteousness is imputed to us even as He takes away our sins.  What an exchange!  God through Christ has brought reconciliation to us, and He made the way for us even before we loved Him. Paul further writes in Titus 3:5:  "he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,.."
    This is what Lent is all about.  Thinking on this great transaction prepares us for the glory of Easter.  For Christians, Easter means victory over death, assurance of pardon, eternal life with the Father all through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  During this forty day period before Easter, let us think  about our reconciliation with God.  As we are reconciled to Him, then, we can also be reconciled to others around us.  Additionally, we also become ministers of reconciliation bringing others to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Reconciliation - a great word - a great transaction that sets us free from sin and death!  Lets meditate on this.  Selah!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Support Your Local Pastor

      Yesterday I read a great blog article written by Thom Rainer entitled "Eight of the Most Significant Struggles Pastors Face".  He listed them as:  criticism and conflict, family problems,
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.