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The Pastoral Paradox
By: James Smith
Paradox - "A statement seemingly absurd or self- contradictory, but really founded in truth."
Being a Pastor or Christian leader is not easy. Whoever said it was, was lying. Being a Pastor or Minister is rewarding and satisfying, but it is not easy.
The part that is not easy for me is when I do good for someone and they turn against me. It knocks me back a step when someone who I have really bent over backwards to help, lies against me or without gratitude, throws "it" all in my face. If you've ministered for more than 1 year, I'm sure you will be able to relate. If you've ministered for 10 years, you could probably write a book on the subject.
One thing they never taught us in Bible College was how to take a direct hit in the chops and keep a smile. Don't you just love getting bawled out by someone in the office, 10 minutes before service. It's not easy getting up in front of your church to preach a positive message after an encounter like that. But we do it anyway! Why? Because that's who we are. That's what we do. We are Ministers. We do good when people hurt us. What a Paradox!
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"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:47-51)
At the beginning of this chapter in John we find Jesus feeding a multitude of people. This multitude of people had followed Jesus because they saw all of the miracles that He had been doing. He had been healing the sick everywhere he went. After a while, this group of people were getting hungry. Jesus asks Philip where they could buy bread, although Jesus already had a plan about what He was going to do. While they were talking, Peter's brother, Andrew, mentioned that there was a young boy who had brought his lunch of five loaves of bread and two small fish. Jesus told the disciples to sit the men down. When they sat them down there were about five thousand men. Jesus takes the loaves of bread, gives thanks and distributes it out to the disciples to give to the men. Afterwards, when all were full, they gathered up the leftovers and filled up twelve baskets. Jesus leaves from this place and crosses over to Capernaum. The people finally realize that Jesus and the disciples have left. They get in their ships and go to Capernaum and find Him there. Jesus turns and says to the multitude:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." (John 6:26)
Jesus was telling this multitude that they were seeking Him for the wrong reasons and ultimately, for the wrong bread. He then tells them that He is the bread of Life. And when you eat of that Bread you will never hunger again.[ read more...]
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” I found this old Russian proverb in the early pages of a recent book written by Gary Keller. The title of this book, “The One Thing” jumped out at me above all the other titles on the shelf. This concept of One Thing is totally foreign to me. I have always thought myself quite adept at doing several things at one time. I have done it all my life. I learned this early in my working career. In fact, the manager of the McDonalds restaurant where I found my first job told me, “The one thing you will learn and take with you from this job is the ability to do many things at one time.” It was not long before I learned first hand what he was talking about. Since that day to this, I can rarely remember doing only one thing at a time.
There is in me a drive that feels like I am not being productive unless I am accomplishing several things at once. Rarely do I ever do “One Thing”. According to Keller’s book, doing more than One Thing is usually not the most productive or profitable way to conduct oneself. This book has some incredible insight as to how to stay on track and build momentum towards your goals, but for many of us preachers, doing more than one thing at a time is a way of life that we are unable to change.
Most Pastors and ministers of the Gospel have families and ministries as well as secular jobs or businesses. This creates a constant pulling in different directions that leaves us feeling tired, confused and even guilty that we are unable to accomplish all that we want to do in any of these areas. We endlessly wrestle with our time constraints as well as our energy levels for each of these.
It would be very nice to do only One Thing Mr. Keller, but for the average preacher out there, this prospect of staying focused, is probably going to be a challenge for us beyond the pages of your book.
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Have you ever run out of gas? At one moment your car is cruising down the highway, and the next it’s sputtering to a stop. You get out and start pushing it to the nearest gas station, but as soon as you stop pushing, the car quickly comes to a halt. Without gas, a car can’t do much of anything.
The same is true with a person and motivation. Without motivation, it’s just hard to get going. On the other hand, when you’re empowered by motivation, no task is too difficult. Having motivation is like putting gas in your tank. It’s what keeps you on the road. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, here are several suggestions to help get going:
Add Up The Rewards Of Beginning – When you have trouble getting started, remember the benefits of beginning. Remind yourself that the finished product will bring you satisfaction. And keep in mind that the highest reward for our effort is not what we “get for it”, but what we become “because of it.” If that’s not incentive enough, consider the negative things that could happen if you don’t begin. Often, those negative costs only increase the longer you wait.[ read more...]
In the past, I have written on church trouble from the angle of people in the congregation who found great enthusiasm for tormenting pastors until they finally ran them off. The religious landscape is littered with men who no longer pastor churches and gave up the calling of a ministry because of a situation where they found themselves in great contention with the hidden powers that ran the church. If you are interested you may read those old Barnabas Blog posts from a couple of years ago (Part 1 & Part 2). Since writing those posts, I have observed a few more of these unfortunate situations as they unfolded.
On the other hand, there are also churches that have had endure terrible abuses at the hands of heavy-handed, manipulative, and dark pastors who fall into the category of being a spiritual abuser.
I must say from the outset that this kind of activity to me is totally foreign because of the environment that I grew up in with my own pastor (and now father-in-law) Joe Patterson. Because of his spiritual leadership, I grew up with the idea that the church was the most incredible, warm, and safe place on the earth. It was only after I begin to travel around a bit and grew up some spiritually and mentally that I was exposed to the dark side of the church and ministry. To be quite frank with you, it was a bit unnerving and initially faith-jarring.[ read more...]
1. Tells you the truth – even when it hurts.
One man who has been one of my mentors for almost 18 years especially stands out because of his honesty with me. Early in my ministry and marriage, he pulled me aside and explained to me that I was not very respectful to my wife in public. He explained that the ladies of the church would not honor me as a minister for this reason. At the time I was offended that he would tell me this as I thought I was very good to my wife. However, years later, I see where he was coming from. I’m grateful that he was bold enough and honest enough to talk to me about a sensitive subject. Honoring my wife and publicly showing her affection has not only given me respect among the other ladies of the church, but has also been a blessing to our marriage.
2. Shows a good example for you to follow.
The old cliché “Do as I say, not as I do.” Does not work in mentoring. A lifelong mentor should be someone who is a model of who you want to become. Everyone is a little bit like the people who have parented them. Part of a mentor’s role is to let the protégé watch them closely in the work that they do. One of my mentors would often times invite me to sit in on important meetings that I had no experience in. I would never say a word unless asked my input. I understood that I was there to observe and to learn. I watched my mentor closely to see how he handled fragile situations that I had no experience in. I would often ask myself how I would handle these often sensitive meetings, but would then watch my mentor expertly handle delicate subjects with Godly wisdom.
3. Sees you as family.
Mentoring someone is a life long commitment. Your best mentors are not people who are only a part of your life for a short amount of time. A mentor sees you as a son or daughter in the Gospel. Paul who mentored Timothy referred to him as his son. Anything less than a family level commitment may prove to be a surface only relationship between mentor and protégé. Often times, subjects discussed in a mentoring relationship are sensitive and personal. A protégé needs to know that he is going to someone who is a father figure who only has the protégé’s best interest in mind.
4. Shows himself/herself to be open and transparent with you.
A good mentor is someone who is not afraid to talk to those they mentor about their failures as well as their successes. My father would often say to me, “Don’t make the same mistakes that I have made.” This is a good reason for mentors to be open with their protégés. You may save that person a tremendous amount of pain and numerous mistakes by revealing to them the mistakes you yourself have made along the way.[ read more...]
Every pastor, preacher, and minister should memorize these words that Paul shared with Timothy;
2 Tim 4:1-5 New Living Translation
1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom:
2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.
4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.
Each time I read this letter I find myself asking these questions:
1. Am I prepared to preach; whether the time is favorable or not?
2. Am I able to correct and encourage my congregation with good teaching?[ read more...]
Matthew 5: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
“Pure” as it is used here in the original Greek is katharos. Katharos is pronounced Kath-ar-os. It means of uncertain Affinity; clean (literally or figuratively): clean, clear, pure.
Jesus declared to the people that day that if someone was capable of having, keeping or obtaining a pure heart, that they would see God someday.
It is the desire of every believer that, one day, they would see God.
However, the enemy of our souls has a desire too. His desire is to keep us from seeing God. Both in this world and in the next. His attempt is to cause us to lose our pure hearts.
One thing that I have found to be universal amongst new converts/believers is the pure heart that the Lord gives to them.
As newborn babes in Christ, their hearts are open to receive anything that the church has to offer them. They trust the ministry and they trust their newfound church family.
Their hearts are pure. Their motives are pure. Their intensions are pure. They are simply thankful to be saved and are happy and content to be a part of the Family of God.
These people are the source of revival in the church. They are usually the ones who bring new people to the church. They tell all their family and friends about what the Lord has done for them. They are not afraid or ashamed to declare their Love for God or what He has done for them.
What makes these people so important to a community’s infiltration of the Gospel?
What makes these people so valuable to the growth and continuance of a church in a given city?
Their pure heart.
- A heart that is pure is capable of loving someone who is unlovable.
- A heart that is pure is able to look beyond a person’s faults and see their potential greatness.
- A heart that is pure has no selfish motives. It only wants to bless those around it.
It labors for the Lord because it loves the Lord and the people who surround their life.
This person is not perfect. They are still human. They still make mistakes. They still sin. But Jesus said that because their motives were correct and their heart was pure, that they shall see God.
So it seems paramount that a believer in Jesus Christ should seek to have and maintain a pure heart.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls.”[ read more...]
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].
The world has always seemed to be a stage for war. Tales of armed conflict fill written history. The Korean War had ended shortly before my arrival on planet Earth. Vietnam dragged on through my college graduation. American troops have fought and died in Grenada, Somalia, and our current endeavors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless of the cause, it seems that there will always be conflict.
As we look back in history, we see one of the most powerful armies that ever walked the globe, The Roman Legions. In those ancient days there were no radios, satellite cell phones, or laser guided bombs. Discipline and order ruled the day. This army conquered the known world using three basic tenants.
1) Uniformity. The centurions all wore the same uniform. They understood that they were part of something bigger than just themselves. They carried a flag-type standard called a vexillum, which showed what legion they belonged. Each century (a 100 man detachment) carried their own standard called a signum. These standards helped the troops to keep in the right positions during battle.
2) Communication. A general would relay his commands to the cornice, (Latin for ‘horn-blower). Each command had a unique set of sounds. The cornice had the duty to blow the exact order from his commander. Under penalty of death he could not, by pride or mistake, change the order he blew through the horn.
3) Loyalty. The Legion carried a portrait of the emperor, the imago, this was to remind the troops they owed their loyalty to him. “. . . just as we make Rome great, it is Rome that makes us great. Without Rome, we are nothing”. (quote from Caerleon.Net)
The eventual destruction of Rome occurred when they dropped their qualifications for membership in their army. Where Roman citizenship had been a requirement, outsiders, or barbarians, were allowed in as paid mercenaries. Discipline and uniformity were dropped in favor of attracting large numbers. Communication broke down due to language barriers and lack of formal training. The commands blown through the horn were not understood. Additionally there was no loyalty to Caesar or Roman culture or values.[ read more...]
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Liberty, Liberation: Freedom from physical, political, and spiritual oppression.
- One of the dominant themes of the Old Testament is that Yahweh is the God who liberated the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. (Passover)
- In the New Testament, God is the one who liberates people from bondage to sin through Jesus Christ. (Cross)
Freedom: The ability to be and do what one wants instead of being controlled by another.
- We are able to choose our actions and attitudes, our responses to others and to God.
- In another sense, we cannot be and do what we want because we are not independent of others or God.
- The Bible constantly affirms that the kind of freedom all persons have is the kind of freedom that slaves have.
Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
Jude 1:1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Deuteronomy 34:5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
(Moses = Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Psalms)
2 Timothy 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
(Moses = Chronicles, Nehemiah, Daniel, Hebrews, Revelation)
Slaves on drugs
- Slaves on opiates are oblivious to their carnal situation.
- Karl Marx declared that religion is the opiate of the masses.
- I believe that Paul taught that opiates are the religion of the masses:
(Opiates = Ambitions, Hobbies, Obsessions)