Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The following is taken from the new transformational ministry devotional Shepherd's Balm to be published August 2010 www.kalosbooks.com (pre-order now) -written by Rich Earl.
The one piece of mail certain to go unread into my wastebasket is a letter addressed to the “busy pastor.” Not that the phrase doesn’t describe me at times, but I refuse to give my attention to someone who encourages what is worst in me. I’m not arguing the accuracy of the adjective; I am, though, contesting the way it’s used to flatter and express sympathy.
“The poor man,” we say. He’s so devoted to his flock; the work is endless, and he sacrifices himself so unstintingly. But the word “busy” is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe the banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.
I become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble: I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself – and to all who will notice – that I am important. If I go into a doctor’s office and find there’s no one waiting, and I see through a half-open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he’s any good. A good doctor will have people lined up waiting to see him; a good doctor will not have time to read a book. Although I grumble about waiting my turn in the busy doctor’s office, I’m also impressed with his importance.
Such experiences affect me. I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed.
I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day’s work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. The pastor is a shadow figure in these people’s minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and goodwill. Anything remotely religious or somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.
It was a favorite theme of CS Lewis that only lazy people work hard by lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone.
But if I vainly crowd my day with conspicuous activity or let others fill my day with imperious demands, I don’t have time to do my proper work, the work to which I have been called. How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I had to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?
…The trick, of course, is to get to the calendar before anyone else does. I mark out times for prayer, for reading, for leisure, for the silence and solitude out of which creative work – prayer, preaching, and listening – can issue.
While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed.Mark 1:35 (The Message)
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
A minister, who does his work with an eye single to God’s glory, leaving everything else behind, receives the best things the world affords. A multitude of people become his relatives and friends. Fathers and mothers are as proud of him as though he were a member of their family. Old men look on him lovingly as on a son. Young men look up to him reverently as to a father. Men of his own age love him as a brother. A large circle feels that in him they have a comrade and friend. He enjoys free access to many homes, houses and lands are his, not by legal title but by spiritual prescription.
Appreciation, gratitude, affection, these are the gold, frankincense, and myrrh constantly poured out before him. If love is the best thing in the world, then the faithful pastor gets more of the Earth’s richest treasure than any other man.
To be sure, he will not be loved by everybody. Jesus was careful to state that the good things would be accompanied by tribulations. These also are part of the minister’s reward. The Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes will always be against him. Men not bad of heart, but of stupid ear will misunderstand him and misrepresent him. The idler will gossip about him and the ungrateful will return evil for good. Those possessed of demons will openly attack him. All this is to be expected. Is the pupil to be above his teacher, and the servant above his master? Think it not strange, young man, when this fiery experience overtakes you.
Do not be thrown into panic because all men do not speak well of you. Do not cry and sob when you meet with opposition in your parish. Do your duty and you will stir up trouble, but you will never be left without faithful hearts to love you. When you go into Gethsemane, friends will remain praying at the gate, and if you die on the cross you will carry into heaven with you the affectionate devotion of many loyal hearts. There is nothing more beautiful on this earth than the love of a parish for a faithful pastor.
Charles Edward Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd, pp. 180-182
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Psalms 23:6 (NKJV)
Monday, July 26, 2010
With every generation new conditions present themselves to the church. Society, business, politics, home, and everything has undergone a marked change within the last quarter of a century. The church has lost her grip upon these times if she does not move with them, and the men of this generation pass by without ever a thought of crossing its threshold. We must change our thought and work and machinery, and even the course of the ship, if we are to fulfill our mission.
The old truth is sacred; old methods may not be. Truth cannot be changed; methods must always be changing. He who is wide awake, and lives in his own time, and pushes to the front, and devises new methods, will be the center of gravity of the men of the world. He who runs in old ruts, and preaches old sermons, and works with old plans, is dead as far as the world is concerned. He has neither life nor power, and that is death. He who studies the right way of presenting truth, and the art of putting things, and the skill in catching men, and understands the importance of tact and sanctified common sense, is “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season. His leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
If the old methods are worn out and ineffective, it is folly and sin to continue their operation. The emperor of Russia, while showing a distinguished visitor over his palace, was asked by the latter why a sentinel was placed on a small grass plot in the grounds. The emperor called his aide-de-camp and asked for information. This the latter was unable to give. The officer for the day was sent for, but he, too, was unable to enlighten the czar. “Send me the general in command of the forces here,” said the emperor. The general came, but could give no further information than that his orders were to post an armed sentinel on that spot. “Investigate it, then,” said the czar shortly, “and report the result to me.” A long search in the military order-book revealed the fact that, eighty years ago, Catherine II, looking from a window in her apartment, had seen the first spring flower shoot up above the snow. She ordered a sentinel to be placed in order to prevent anyone from breaking the snowdrop. No one thought to countermand the order afterward, and so for eighty years a sentinel had kept watch on that very spot; a human monument of blind, useless obedience to old orders and customs. Many a preacher stands within the courts of the church a sentinel over some withered flower of the past.
That same czar, while going through his palace one day, noticed some repairs were being made, and, wishing to make inquiry, he beckoned to a workman nearby, who immediately dropped his tools and approached the emperor. Before the latter could speak to him a rifle shot rang out, and the man fell dead. A hidden sentinel had not seen the emperor beckon, and, in accordance with orders to shoot anyone coming unsummoned within twenty paces of the czar, he had killed the workman, whom he had suspected of approaching the emperor for the purpose of murdering him.
The man who is doing some new work in the kingdom of God, and reaching the churchless and Christless men, is beckoned to the side of his Master to receive commendation, while the impulsive and shortsighted guard over antiquities tries to shoot him down.
The church for the times must meet the church of the times. It must be of the Columbus spirit, and, with consecrated determination, discover the new world. It will find the discord in the music of modern life, and bring it back to key note and harmony. It will brave any storm, and sail any sea to
reach the great continent of man’s needs, and to satisfy the longings of his heart.
Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?
…Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Matthew 15:1-9 (NKJV)
Thursday, July 22, 2010
“The overwhelming majority of the Lord’s workers labor anonymously in His vineyard-often in lonely places.” (George Wood)
“One hundred years from now, it won’t matter whether you drive an expensive or cheap car, whether you live in a mansion or a rented room, or whether you buy your clothes from Nordstrom’s or Goodwill. It will not matter whether you pastored a large church or a small one; whether you preached to thousands or a handful; whether you had a public platform or ministered individually as a chaplain or counselor. What will matter 100 years from now is the legacy of your life that you pass on to others.” (George Wood)
There is much that the Lord's true servants do which no human eye takes knowledge of. What they do they are to do as to the Lord, and to look for reward from him; learning also to have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings and service.
It is our wisdom not to seek praise of men. If, in our relationships with saints, rather than look after a good name, we seek to approve ourselves to God, a good name will surely follow us.
Look not at the quantity, but the quality of your service, whatsoever that service may be. It could be preaching, preaching is not the first thing: the heart must first be kept; then two or three words spoken in the power of the spirit may avail more than many a long discourse. (RC Chapman)
We all want to be noticed. This can even become an obsession. We strive, and seek some visible success so that we can point to it and receive the “atta boy” or pat on the back. This is especially true in our late 20s and through our 30s. We are affirmed by these things - numerical growth, recognition by our peers or a mentor, being noticed by society in general. When we don’t receive them, we can feel empty.
Ideally, we ought to get these things from God. We ought not to crave the recognition of others. That is true, but we also need to know that we are making a difference, that our life’s work matters.
A counter intuitive response is to seek ministry in an obscure place, not as a stepping stone, but as a life’s work. The fact is, most of our churches are not large. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Most are not in booming communities. They are in obscure places.
Jesus was from an obscure place, and seemed to love being there. Many great people toil in obscurity their whole lives and are not seen for what they are until long after their death. Are you content to live such a life if it is God’s will for you? Or will you need to be noticed and allow that to take you places the Lord does not send you?
With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.
—1 Corinthians 15:58 (The Message)
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
This brief excerpt from Pilgrim's Progress provides insight as to why we, as servants of the Lord, are able to persevere even after our human strength has already given out. We must not minimize the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire and renew God's people. The Father has invested the life of His own Son for our deliverance, and is not limited in his ability to continually resource us for His glory.
"Then I saw in my dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall. Standing by the wall was an individual continually throwing water on the fire to put it out. Yet the fire just burned higher and hotter.
Christian asked, “What does this mean?”
The Interpreter answered, “This fire is the work of grace working in the heart. He who throws water on it, to extinguish it and put it out, is the devil. But as you see, the fire is burning higher and hotter in spite of it. You'll be shown the reason of it.”
With that he took Christian to the other side of the wall. There he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast (but secretly) into the fire.
Then said Christian, “What means this?”
The Interpreter answered, “This is Christ, who continually, with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire; this is to teach thee, that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.”
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)