Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PEW: Have Compassion For Your Pastor's Personal Struggles

Hey, it's my second week of Practical Encouragement Wednesday, a.k.a., PEW. I spend a lot of time around pastors, hearing their struggles, their joys. I get to help them and they help me. What I don't get to do is share lessons I've learned with members of other churches. I was a counselor for 10 years, have been a pastor for over 20, and want to put some of that experience to work helping churches help their pastors. My hope is that doing so will strengthen the church to fulfill its mission in this world.

I hear it's lonely at the top. I don't know if being a pastor is being at the top, but most pastors are lonely at least some of the time. They are surrounded by people, but feel alone in the crowd. Their office seems to separate them from humanity.

One reason is this. They study and preach God's Word all the time, and know they just don't add up. I know, some think they are superior, but most are all too keenly aware that they are not. That adds to another cause of loneliness - fear. What if their shortcomings take center stage? All pastors have heard about the pastor who was fired for something minor. So, rather than opening up, pastors often cover up, because they aren't allowed to grow up.

So, how can you express compassion for your pastor and his personal struggles?

Don't try to force your pastor to open up. Don't sit down and say, "Pastor, I know you've got struggles just like the rest of us. If you ever need to spill your guts, I'm here for you." I actually had that conversation many years ago in Texas. Any discerning pastor will decline this offer.

Be a friend. Invite him over to watch the game. Take him fishing. Treat him like a human being, not an office holder. But, understand when he doesn't want to come to your niece's birthday party because he just needs to rest from a week of pouring out to others.

Defend him when he is unjustly criticized. If you are with him while someone is criticizing him unfairly, defend him in his presence. You really have no idea what that act of courage will do for his soul.

Lovingly confront him when you see him slipping. He must hold himself accountable, and so must the people of God. Expect him to live a holy life, but not a superhuman one.

P.S.: Just a note to the congregation among which I serve. We have served the Lord together for many years in large part because of your care and compassion for your pastor and his family. Thank you for continuing to help me grow in Christ.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

P.E.W.: Practical Encouragement Wednesdays (About Meetings)

I've been a pastor for over two decades. I spend a lot of time with pastors, and, because of other ministries I do, I spend alot of time with other pastor's parishioners and people who aren't parishioners. Oh, yeah, and it's Wednesday. Now, you might ask, "What makes you qualified to say what you're saying?"  Well, probably not much. I do have experience. I do care. And, every bit of advice I give I've probably learned the hard way . . . as in, I've blown it.  So, here's my first PEW: PRACTICAL ENCOURAGEMENT WEDNESDAYS for pastors, parishioners, wannabe pastors, and used-to-be parishioners.


Parishioners . . . treat every meeting like it matters. 

Don't guilt your pastor when he has a meeting. Don't rush in late and leave early because you're so busy. Everyone there is busy, including your pastor. Your time isn't any more valuable than your pastor's or anyone else's on the team. So be on time, be prepared, and be in the moment. That means that while you're in the meeting that meeting is your priority. And, be encouraging to your pastor while you're in the meeting. He may not want to be there either.

Pastors . . . treat every meeting like it matters.

People are busy. I know. I know. They are not any busier than you. I know. Most of them have no clue how busy you are, or the weight you carry as a shepherd of God's people. You gotta get over that. If the meeting is important, prepare for it, be on time for it, and lead it well. If it's not important, don't have it. Some think the church will rock along just fine if there is never another meeting. Others are making sure you have every committee meeting every month. Once more. You gotta get over that.

So be on time, be prepared, and be in the moment. Turn off your phone. Make the meeting your priority. And, verbally express thanks to every person present in every meeting.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Soylent Green Reaction To The Use Of Aborted Fetal Tissue

Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are either selling or donating aborted fetal (baby) tissue to be used in medical research. Some are outraged over the possibility that this tissue is being sold rather than donated? It is a baby whose life has been taken, so what does it matter if it is donated or sold. I guess that if the tissue is sold, that is worse because it somehow conjures up images of grave-robbers selling off the gold teeth of the corpses they dig up. How, though, can selling the lung or liver of an unborn child be worse than taking its life in the womb? How can the desecration of the image of God in that child be any worse?

Not long ago I had a conversation with a person who, while they did not agree with abortion, also saw nothing wrong with the use of aborted fetal tissue being used to find a possible cure to Parkinson's and other diseases. They said, "Well, the tissue is there. Why not do something good with it?  Why not help someone?"

When I was a kid, growing up in the pre-streaming age, I watched every sci-fi movie and show that came on TV. One of the most fascinating and disturbing to me was one with Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson called Soylent Green. It was set in a not-to-distant future when the greenhouse effect had rendered our earth almost uninhabitable. In this over-populated, starving world, assisted suicide had been legalized and institutionalized to end suffering and reduce the population. Soylent Green was a food fed to the people under the premise that it was made from the plankton found in the seas, but the seas had long ceased being able to produce the needed plankton. So, where did the Soylent Green that everyone ate come from?  It came from the recycled bodies of the dead who mostly came from the assisted suicide centers. When Heston's character discoved this, he cried out, "Soylent green is people!" You saw it coming, but you didn't want to see it coming. I remember how the movie disturbed my young mind and still does.

I've made it clear to my wife that if I ever get a disease that can only be cured through research or tissue derived from aborted babies, I will die of that disease. I could not live knowing my suffering had been lessened by the intrauterine suffering caused by the abortion of a preborn child. Only a self-focused, self-perpetuating, selfish world could institutionalize abortion, and only a society that has travelled far down that self-destructive path could use aborted baby tissue for anything other than a memorial service.

May God deliver us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Planned Parenthood, ISIS, And Desensitization To Sin

Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. (Heb. 3:15)
Do you remember the graphic beheading of James Foley, or the horrible execution of a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive? Who could forget those choreographed atrocities? But, did you hear about dozens of Islamic children executed for failing to keep Ramadan according to ISIS rules? What about the hundreds of Christian children murdered recently? They didn't make the headlines. The shock and awe has stopped shocking. 
If recent reports are true, Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies for medical research. The Center For Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, reports it has spent 30 months investigating Planned Parenthood's "commercial exploitation of aborted fetal tissue." The agency released an undercover video that seems to expose Planned Parenthood staff talking about selling aborted body parts for a profit. Planned Parenthood denies that, news sources saying the money talked about was used to offset the transportation of legally donated fetal tissue.
Legally donated fetal tissue. That's a nice way of saying body parts torn from unborn children, all legal in the United States of America since 1973.  And, what are the headlines on the major news agencies the day after this revelation?  CNN . . . "Of Course Bill Cosby Is Guilty."  MSNBC . . . "Life In The Shadows, Poverty In The American Southwest." FOX . . . "DEMS DIVIDED: Biden dispatched to Hill to twist arms on Iran nuclear deal" 
Kill 56,000,000 unborn babies over a 40 year period, and selling their body parts rates a byline, not a headline. ISIS may be smarter than we think, shocking us into uncaring insensitivity so that we would no longer pressure our governments to act aggressively against it.
We place so much value on how we feel. If we feel it is sin, then it is. If we do not feel it is sin, then it is not. There's a problem with that. Sin long enough and you quench the Holy Spirit, you harden your heart. Walk in sin and the shocking response of the Holy Spirit within you is dulled and you become so desensitized to sin that you condone, rather than condemn it in your own life.
May God remove the blinders from our eyes and tear the callouses from our hearts.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lessons From My Grandparents For All Whose Children Have Turned Away Or Denied The Faith

I was sitting here thinking about a conversation with a parent whose child had just announced to her that she no longer believed in God. As I thought, it dawned on me that both sets of my grandparents lived through the same or similar situations. Over a half century ago, my father took up the prodigal, cynical, God-denying life. This son of a preacher did so until he was 61 years old.

Some time after he became a follower of Christ, he told me, "Your Daddy Roy (my preacher grandfather) would be so proud of you, that you're a pastor. I'm so proud of you. I just wish I hadn't wasted all those years."

Both sets of my grandparents followed Jesus. Daddy Roy and Gran were pastor and pastor's wife for all of my life. Paw-paw and Na-na were deacon and deacon's wife for all of my life. They are all gone now, enjoying the fruit of their faith in Heaven. None of them were perfect, but you could see the impact Christ had in their lives. You could also see the impact a wayward adult child had on their lives.

I wish I could talk with them, get their counsel to help me as I pastor in this world in which it seems more and more are apostate - turning away from the faith. While I can't sit down and ask how they made it through with their faith intact, I can remember what they taught me as they lived out their Christian faith.

Here are some lessons I learned and pass on to any who are living with an adult prodigal. First, they continued to love. I never questioned their love for me or for their prodigals. Disagreement, yes. Hatred, no. Compromise, never. Love, always. Second, they remained true to Christ. If they were at our home or if we were at theirs, they prayed, shared Christ and went to worship services. Third, they prayed. One time after my grandmother's death, my mother told me how she used to stay up late and talk with Gran. She shared with me how Gran had cultivated a life of constant prayer and how she had prayed for my father. I used to think Gran was just muttering all the time. It was only as an adult that I discovered she was praying.

So, if your child (teen or adult) has become a prodigal, I share the lessons of my grandparents with you. Love them no matter what they believe, say or do. Remain steadfast in your devotion to Christ and His church, no matter what that costs you. Pray, not just often, but all the time . . . maybe even begin muttering to God about your prodigal.