Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Masses to a Handful



Have you been discouraged by the masses of people coming to your church to hear the truth of God’s Word dropping down to only a handful of followers?  Jesus had that problem, too.  Or just maybe he created that problem.  I was reading John 6 where Jesus had just fed the 5000 men (not counting women and children) the fishes and the loaves.  They showed up the next day wanting signs and miracles.  Jesus exposed their true hearts—they wanted him to feed them every day.  And then he preached the morbid sermon that began to send the masses away:  you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.  Even the disciples were appalled!   And this is where it gets interesting. 

Jesus explains to his disciples (after the masses left) that he was talking about spirit and life.  In a side note, John explains that from the first day Jesus began to call disciples, he knew who would have genuine faith and who would betray him.  And then Jesus said, “No one comes to me without the Father’s blessing.”   After hearing these teachings, many of his disciples walked away and no longer followed him.  How many disciples did Jesus call?   1000?   100?   50?   We know he was left with 12—and he knew one of those was his betrayer.   

It’s so interesting to have 40+ years of ministry behind us to have some perspective.  Andy was in youth ministry a good many of those years.  We’ve had large groups of youth and out of those large groups, there was always a handful who chose to follow Jesus with all of their hearts.  Not even a big number of followers—a small number.  Out of each youth group (there have been four), we’ve watched those small groups invest Jesus’ teaching in others. We may long for the MASSES to follow Jesus.  But Jesus knew there would be small groups of followers and he was content with that.  He knew that each follower could invest in another handful of followers who would invest in another handful of followers...until the whole world had heard the truth and had a chance to decide whether to follow him or not.  Don’t be fooled by the masses.  It may be time to press ahead and see who’s following.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

Would God send us HERE?!?




All I could do was cry!  Andy & I had been invited to interview with a church 350 miles from home.  We’d spent the evening with a fun-loving committee—but after we got back to our motel room, all I could do was cry.  I told Andy that I didn’t know what it was—but there was something wrong with the situation.  He assured me we didn’t have to come to this church. 

The next morning, we met the pastor and his wife for breakfast.  We knew and loved and respected them both.  We talked a bit and then I asked them, “Why are you here?”  They looked at one another and the pastor replied, “That’s a good question. God sent me here to practice the things I’d been teaching in my last church.”  

We went home and prayed. And waited.  As the days passed, I tried to convince myself it wasn’t as bad I thought. I had nothing to base my reaction on. At the time, I didn’t even understand that I had a spiritual gift of discernment. We got the call and were asked to come to be presented before the church for a vote.  My heart was full of dread.  We went and sat in the pastor’s office as the church voted and I ugly-cried!  Andy assured me again, “We don’t have to come here!”  And I replied, “Yes, we do!!   I know God is sending us here—but WHY?!?”  We went out (with my red face) and told the church we accepted their call.  

We were there three years. And it was, by far, the hardest place we’ve ever been.  In fact, we were building a house and a man from our church told our builder to quit building—he was going to make sure we were GONE!   There was big, constant conflict because there had been a deep root of sin in the church which had been exposed.   And our pastor was dealing with it in truth.  I wish I could tell you I spent those three years quietly submitting to God...but I have to admit there was a lot of kicking and screaming on the inside of my heart. 

But...what we gained from that three-year experience was priceless!!!  Andy learned how to stand in truth and deal with conflict.  His ministry became very defined.  And we’ve never had such closeness with a staff as we did then—we were bound together!  And the people who were our friends became life-long friends.  Our youth group was amazing!

Will God send you somewhere you may not want to go?  Yes.  But will He have good reason?   Definitely.  And, if you’re like me, you’ll look back on that time as a life-changing, life-giving experience.  That was, in fact, God’s plan all along.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ministry & Friends



What have you been taught about friendships as a pastor’s wife?  Were you told to not make friends with those in your church because it could create jealousy?   Were you advised to avoid confiding in parishioners because you could end up being the main course at their dinner that night?  Were you cautioned to spread yourself around and not limit yourself to one or two friends?   How have YOU handled friendships in the church?


I was given much of the advise above.  But it just didn’t feel right.  I HAVE to have friends.  And I need deep friendships—it’s just who I am.  So I decided to look at the life of Jesus and I was encouraged by what I discovered.  


Jesus chose twelve friends.  Actually, it was twelve men he wanted to mentor—but I think he knew or expected they would become his closest friends.  Out of those twelve, he had three closer friends—Peter, James, & John.  And out of his three closest friends (that he wasn’t afraid to call out for private times), he had a best friend named John.  John even called himself “the disciple Jesus loved.”


I was so encouraged when I understood Jesus and his friendships.  Of course, he reached out to many people and made himself available to the masses but he spent quality time with those he was mentoring—he wanted to give them a part of himself.  


Invest yourself in others and allow them to invest in you!  Make friends!  Have CLOSE friends.  It’s even ok to have a BEST friend. You’ll have to be vulnerable and you may even be wounded or sold out.  After all, Judas did that to Jesus.  But Jesus would have chosen Judas all over again. Friendships are worth the risk.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Scream!



In the law of the Old Testament (Genesis 22), God commanded that if a woman screamed when she was raped, her rapist was to be put to death. If it happened in the country where no one could hear her scream, the same thing happened—the rapist was put to death. God was empowering women to use their voice!!  If the man and woman were unmarried and the woman didn’t scream, the sexual relation was considered consensual and both were put to death. God was also pretty serious about sexual relations outside of marriage. It wasn’t that it was just immoral, but it was a threat to a foundational institute of Israelite society—the family.  

Then there’s the story of Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39.  She tried her best to seduce Joseph whom Potiphar had put over his whole household. Now Joseph was a well-built, good-looking young man, the Bible says. Potiphar’s wife seduced him but Joseph refused her.  The Bible says she pursued him day after day and he did his best to just avoid her.  (This young man had already produced some pretty serious character qualities through the trials he’d been through.) One day, Joseph went into the house when no one else was there and she grabbed him by the clothes and tried seducing him again. He ran!!  And Potiphar’s wife was left holding his clothes in her hands. This rejection infuriated her. So she first went to the servants and told them Joseph had tried to rape her—and that she’d screamed and he’d run away!  When Potiphar came home, she told him the same story.  Her husband was enraged and had Joseph thrown into prison.  I believe Potiphar’s wife knew this law.  She knew she had to scream for rape to be punishable. So she said she screamed—knowing there was no one, besides Joseph, to contradict or substantiate her story. 

There has never been a more important time for pastors to flee from evil and every appearance of evil—especially in regards to sexual conduct.  Every pastor and associate pastor should make it a practice to never be alone with another woman. That also means a youth minister should never take a teenaged girl home alone in his car.  If there’s not a godly woman in your church available to help another woman needing counseling, then the pastor should always have his office door open with others within view or his wife included in the counseling session. Do whatever it takes to avoid being accused later.  

It’s imperative for women to find their voice to scream when they are molested or raped!!  God commanded it.  But we also need to be aware that not all women who “scream” (without substantiation) are innocent.  

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Holy Disruption




Have you ever had a holy disruption?  Let me define it for you...
Holy:  set apart, dedicated to God, sacred, spiritual. 
Disruption:  an intense breaking away, the act of breaking or bursting asunder. Intensive force. 
So a Holy Disruption is a breaking away prescribed by God, being set apart in an intense breaking, or (my favorite) an interruption by God for His purpose.   

A holy disruption can rock your world and begin in a very negative way!  I think of Joseph being sold into slavery or Esther taken into the harem.  But it could also involve the supernatural such as Moses seeing the burning bush or Saul being blinded by a great light. Interestingly, there were several holy disruptions where women were told they would become pregnant with promise—Sarah & Mary.  Holy disruptions are life-changing and usually affect the rest of your existence. 

I want to encourage you today. Your world may have been rocked by what appears to be a catastrophe. But what if it’s a holy interruption which will result in God fulfilling His purpose through you?  Joseph didn’t know he would rule the nation when he became a slave. Be still.  Give thanks.  Look for God’s purpose for your life in this thing.
  
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 
I Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sheep



We are all like sheep and we have one Good Shepherd who paid a great price for us. But as God appointed pastors as under-shepherds, I thought it would be good for us to understand the nature of sheep.(Remember...we are one!)
  1. Sheep are the only defenseless animal alive—which is probably why God chose to compare us to sheep. We need the defense of the Good Shepherd. The only defense sheep have is to flee and huddle together to protect themselves from predators.  You very much see the “mob mentality” in a herd of sheep. 
  2. Sheep are followers. The young are taught to follow the elder sheep. Usually one ram rises as the leader of the herd. He will butt the heads of other sheep to demand dominance. In fact, he sees the shepherd as a sheep to be dominated.  A Shepherd never turns his back on a ram and children should never be allowed in a pen with a ram.  The shepherd must convince one sheep to go where he wants it to go—and then the others will follow.  
  3. Sheep have poor depth perception. They have great peripheral vision which allows them to stay aware of predators around them. But many will fall off of a ledge because they can’t differentiate light and shadows. One shepherd tells the story of losing 400 sheep because they followed one after the other off of a ledge. After all...they are followers. 
  4. Some sheep tend to wander.  Sheep have no homing skills.  They can’t find their way back once they’ve wandered off. The shepherd must go looking for the lost sheep. Many sheep have been found dead in remote places because they couldn’t find their way back and were killed by a predator. 
  5. Sheep produce wool all the time.  The more it’s cut off, the more it grows. Fruitfulness is inherent in sheep. 
  6. Sheep are picky eaters.  They won’t eat junk food. They eat grass and prefer fresh grass.  
  7. Sheep have excellent hearing. They quickly learn the voice of the shepherd and are responsive to his voice.  They also recognize the calls of their enemies and quickly circle up to protect themselves. 
  8. Sheep display an intensely outgoing social instinct that allows them to bond closely to other sheep—especially to related flock members. 
  9. Males will physically challenge one another for social rank and breeding privileges.  Ewes tend to stay in their maternal groups for life, whereas rams may form unstable relationships—even remaining bachelors who quickly lose interest in one another.  
  10. Sheep are the only animal which make no noise when they are slaughtered.  

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Shepherd



I decided to take another look at the natural job of shepherding after I heard of another pastor taking his life this morning to get some insight into the spiritual job of shepherding. What is happening?  Why has shepherding become difficult?  What has changed?   As I studied, I saw the following ten (or more) points.  I wonder if it doesn’t speak to the modern-day shepherd or pastor?  I’ll outline what I saw and leave you to your own conclusions.  
  1. Son.  A shepherd was usually the youngest son of the family who was delegated to the task of caring for the sheep. A farmer didn’t have time to move sheep from pasture to pasture—so he chose his young son to do it.  A certain age was not a prerequisite. The father chose his son to do the job when he knew he was capable and ready.
  2. Lonely Job. Being a shepherd, you were alone a great deal of the time. Shepherds were nomadic and lived set apart from society. They stayed with their sheep. In their alone times, they usually learned to play an instrument—for their own enjoyment (or worship) and to soothe the sheep. 
  3. They Led the Sheep. They didn’t drive their sheep—they led them with confidence.  If the sheep resisted, the shepherd would convince that one favored sheep who kept close to him, to lead the way and the others would follow.  
  4. Protected.  The shepherd protected the sheep from predators with his weapon.  He had lots of time to practice hitting a target as he watched his sheep graze. He was willing to lay down his life for his sheep.  If one sheep was missing, he would put the other sheep in a pen and go searching until he found the lost sheep. He loves all of his sheep!
  5. Guarded.  Many sheep paddocks were circular walls with one opening. After the sheep were in for the night, the shepherd would lay across the opening to guard the sheep. In this way, he became the gate.  
  6. Healer.  When the sheep got cuts from brambles, the shepherd would anoint it with oil to bring healing. If a sheep was injured, the shepherd would create a sling and carry the sheep. 
  7. The Shepherd Knew His Sheep. He gave many, or all, of his sheep names.  They knew his voice because he talked to them and played with them. Whenever several shepherds ended up at the same field with their sheep, they would each call their sheep and they would naturally separate because they knew their own shepherd’s voice.  
  8. A Shepherd Paid a Price.  The shepherd (or his family) bought the sheep.  It was an investment they didn’t take lightly. The shepherd guarded the sheep because they belonged to him. There was always a price to pay. 
  9. A Shepherd Provides Freedom from Fear, Tension, Aggravation, and Hunger.  A shepherd would go ahead of the sheep to a new field to make sure there were no predators and to prepare the field—to free it of any poisonous or harmful weeds.  The sheep could not rest as long as it was fearful.  There’s also tension between many sheep, or especially, rams.  So the shepherd would grease the heads of the belligerent sheep so their heads would glance off of each other as they hit one another.  Sheep can literally beat their brains to death.  Gnats, flies, and other insects would aggravate the sheep until they couldn’t rest.  So the shepherd would anoint the sheep with oil. 
  10. Lays Down His Own Needs for the Needs of the Sheep. The shepherd lives a life of self-denial. 
One thing I learned through my studies is that many families have to hire someone to care for their sheep.  They are called hirelings.  They have nothing invested and when predators come, they easily abandon the sheep.  Also as things have become more modern and there is less open land to pasture the sheep, fences have been put up to corral the sheep. Many modern shepherds ride the fences on horseback to check their sheep. The sheep no longer know their shepherd intimately.  
Another important thing a shepherd must do is first be a sheep and be led by the Good Shepherd. He must hear His voice and obey Him. 

*I highly recommend the book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the sheep...