Friday, 19 July 2013 10:58

Still Passionate!

Written by

Are you still passionate for ministry and hungry for God? Heaven forbid that any of us should lose passion for serving in ministry and walking with God. However, the loss of passion occurs. In considering this subject there are several questions that should be examined.

First, what does it look like when we lose our passion? Some of the symptoms are:
• We lose our passion for God's word and fellowship with Him. Prayer, praise, and Bible study become chores rather than privileges.
• We become cynical of people and ministry is a job rather than a joy. In this scenario people become a problem rather than the object of joyful ministry.
• We lose enthusiasm for learning, growing and discovery. We stop reading good books and pursuing fresh ideas.
• We procrastinate and drag our feet while fulfilling simple tasks.
• Other activities get more attention than God's activities.
• There is a loss of physical energy.
• We become irritable and driven by negative emotions.
• We yearn for alternatives: another place of service, another job, and new challenges.
• We withdraw from others.

Second, what causes us to lose passion?
• We lose passion when our lives are self- driven rather than God-driven. It is easy to neglect our personal walk with God. When this occurs we are more focused on preparing to teach and preach than on feeding our own souls.
• We lose passion when we do not allow time for recovery. The daily rigors of ministry and the weekly demands of shepherding lower our physical/spiritual reserves. It would be nice if we could pull up to a pump and refill those reserves instantly. However, God's replenishment is similar to that which occurs when a cell phone recharges. It takes time and down time. Things such as vacations, a weekly Sabbath, taking time to laugh with others, and taking time to attend a conference or read a good book.
• We lose passion when the demands of ministry overwhelm us. If you visit the beach there are times when officials will raise warning flags due to dangerous waves and undertow. When this occurs, the relentless waves or undertow will defeat you. You might survive for a few minutes but, without assistance, the vicious attack of those enemies will pull you under. In ministry there are enemies of the soul: difficult people, traditions, time pressures, disillusionment, and physical demands.

In II Timothy 4 Paul discusses his approaching death and the trials he has endured (loneliness- 10-12, 14, 16; persecution- 6; desertion- 10, 14-16; lions-17). In the midst of the trials Paul rejoices that he has been able to finish well (7). He hungers for the sweet fellowship of fellow ministers and the truth of God's word. In short, Paul remains passionate about ministry and the things of God.

My prayer is that each of us would finish well. In addition, I pray that we would be filled with passion until the very end. Some people die when the heart stops beating while others die a slow death when passion ebbs from the spirit.

Saturday, 13 July 2013 16:49

Did You Hear Her?

Written by

My wife Judy wrote an excellent two-part article for pastors. This article was posted the past two weeks in The Shepherds Connection. I would encourage you and your wife to go back and review that article. The article covered a subject men struggle to grasp, feelings.

Husbands/pastors have one of several options when it comes to our wives feelings:

  1. We can dismiss our insensitivity as a male thing.
  2. We get so caught up in ministry that we fail to grow in this important area.
  3. We acknowledge the feelings and fail to respond, which means we probably did not hear what she said to begin with.
  4. We listen to her and continue to grow.

I must admit, I have struggled with each of these responses.

As I examine this subject I am reminded of a conversation Judy and I had years ago. We were discussing female submission. Paul teaches mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21), but we seem to enjoy talking about female submission. Judy said “Tim, when a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church it is not hard for a wife to submit.” I have never forgotten that sentence.

In reading Judy’s article I chose two areas to discuss. First, I have been guilty of using her as an illustration on many occasions. Most of the illustrations were harmless acts of fun or real life stories that happened to our family.  If such stories cause my wife to feel showcased then I should avoid using them. If I feel that I must use a given story then I should at least ask her permission before I use a given story.  I have tended to ask her permission more as I grow older.

The second area of guilt involves expectations.  Over the years, especially in our younger years, I tended to stereotype Judy and expected certain behavior from her that placed extra pressure on her. I did not believe those stereotypes, but was pushed into acting upon them because of tradition.

In considering this male/female tension what should we do?

  1. Ask God to help you be a better listener.  We should listen to the words, but we also need to listen to the hidden feelings, such as described in Judy’s article.
  2.  Remember the words of Jesus, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25)
  3.  Prioritize your family.  Many times pastors get so caught up in caring for other families that they neglect to take care of their own.

This marriage discussion brings up a point of irony.  We who speak for Christ can be guilty of neglecting His words.

Pastors, as leaders, can be a bundle of pride.  As such we struggle to release our hidden failures.

The disturbing part is that divorce is a common occurrence in the lives of those who serve in ministry. The pressure to build a church often drives pastors to neglect their marriages and families.

This sobering truth should drive us to our knees. My prayer is that all of us would raise the standard of marriage.  I pray that we would be an example in both word and deed.

Sunday, 07 July 2013 15:23

I Just Want You to Know How I Feel (Part 2)

Written by

The feelings expressed in this two part series may not reside in every pastor’s wife. However, they are real feelings expressed by pastor’s wives. Pastors, please listen to your wives. They need you!

Thoughts from a Minister’s Wife:

I feel a sense of belonging when you include me as your ministry partner. I’m talking about a relationship not a possession that belongs to the church. However, I also feel a sense of belonging when church members include me in their activities in and outside the church (BBQ’s, fish fries, holidays, etc.).

I feel lonely when night after night I sit at home all alone watching TV, reading, sewing, playing computer games, or anything to keep my mind occupied while you are away. Where are you? I also feel lonely sitting by myself in church. Why won’t someone invite me to sit with them?

I feel respected when you and the church seek my counsel. I also feel respected when you and the church give me freedom to “just be me.”

I feel imprisoned and trapped when I’m confined to a stereotype. Yes, your comments such as, “no one else will take this job in the church, please, will you. . . “, or “You need to. . . “, (and I could mention other remarks) make me feel trapped. Church members also use similar tactics to lure me into their prison of expectations.

I feel a sense of worth as a minister’s wife.  It’s nice to know that I’m part of the bigger picture in God’s Kingdom. My sense of worth comes from my relationship with Jesus Christ. What an honor to know that, “. . . our God would count [me] worthy of this calling . . .” (2 Thess. 1:11 NIV)

I feel a loss of Identity when you and the church fail to recognize my giftedness. Please allow me to do things in the church that enhance my Spiritual Gifts. Do not expect me to do things in the church that do not align with the Spiritual Gifts that God has given me.

I feel a sense of pride when you stand before God’s people and proclaim His Word. I feel a sense of pride when church members say kind words to me about you. This blesses my life!

I feel helpless when you are going through endless struggles in the church. When this happens you repeatedly talk about issues until I come to my rope’s end. Yes, it’s true, I feel respected when you seek my counsel; but when my counsel doesn’t seem to help then I feel helpless. Maybe an accountability partner, like a fellow minister, would be a better choice for venting. This would also relieve undo stress upon me. Weighting me down with negative issues regarding the church causes me to build resentment over being a minister’s wife. I also feel helpless when church members make unfair comments about you or the children. I want to lash out at them; but I dare not!

I feel special when you listen to me. I like it when you make me feel special. Thanks! I feel special when church members say kind words to me. It’s so nice to feel appreciated!

I feel hurt when you say ugly things to me. Sometimes, you let out on me your frustrations toward the church. I feel like a target on a target range where you go to vent—bull’s eye, you got me! Church members also hurt with their cunning remarks. Don’t they know I have feelings too?!

Honey, I love you and want you in my life. I am trying to balance my feelings. Please understand I just want you to know how I feel.

Editor’s Note:  If you are a pastor’s wife and would like to connect with Judy or another member of The Shepherd’s Connection ministry, please visit our Contact Page  http://theshepherdsconnection.org/prayer-requests

Saturday, 29 June 2013 17:27

I Just Want You to Know How I Feel (Part 1)

Written by

Honey, I know you’re busy—preparing multiple sermons for Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday prayer meeting; getting ready for the deacons’ meeting—nervous about their reaction to your suggestion that the Lord’s Supper be served before the sermon instead of after the sermon as they’ve always done; a wedding to administer this weekend; hospital visitation; new visitor visitation; the Johnsons need marital counseling this week; and this is just the beginning of your long “to do” list for the week.

I understand why your mind is in another world most of the time. But, I want you to know how I feel about being a minister’s wife. My feelings are evoked by my relationships with you and with the church. After all, how can a person have feelings without relationships? Relationships are the foundation in which feelings are formed. 

As I express my feelings, they may seem inconsistent.   My feelings fluctuate because our circumstances fluctuate.  Just when we think things are going well in the church, something comes up to mar the sweetness of our fellowship with fellow church members. (Satan is always out to destroy!)

I think it’s important that you know how I feel because I love you. David once said, “My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue. “  (Ps. 39:3 NIV) David understood that suppressed feelings do not solve problems. Suppressing feelings only ignite a fire of bitterness.  I love you and never want a fire of bitterness to flame up and destroy our marriage, our lives, our children’s lives, or the lives of church members who hold you in highest regard. So, here’s how I feel.

I feel joy in being your wife. God has ordained our marriage and consecrated the two of us for His service. It is a blessing to know that I am “called out” to partner with my husband for ministry in the name of Jesus Christ. I feel joy in being the pastor’s wife to the church we serve. When I consider my position in the church, my heart radiates with joy and contentment over the sense of fulfillment I feel as a minister’s wife.

I feel depressed because I am overwhelmed by the expectations you and the church place upon me. The feelings of “I have to. . .”, “I should. . . “, or “I can’t. . . because I’m the minister’s wife” drag me down to a dark pit. Sometimes, I think I can’t climb out—will you help me?

I feel loved when you praise and show appreciation for me in private and in public. I also feel loved when you spend time with me. The church makes me feel loved when the members welcome me into their fellowship rather than treating me as an outsider.

I feel “showcased” when you use me as an illustration in your sermons. When you use my name in your sermons all eyes turn toward me and away from the pulpit. I feel showcased by the church every time I step into the church building. Just once, I wish I could go to church and be just a “regular” person going to church!

Honey, I love you and want you in my life. I am trying to balance my feelings. Please understand, I just want you to know how I feel.

Editor’s Note:  Be sure to check back next week for Part 2 of Judy’s article. If you are a pastor’s wife and would like to connect with Judy or another member of The Shepherd’s Connection ministry, please visit our Contact Page  http://theshepherdsconnection.org/prayer-requests

Monday, 24 June 2013 04:31

Wait!

Written by

The command to “wait” is one of the most difficult words in the English language. I think this word is especially difficult for those who serve in ministry. Why? It is difficult because ministers are leaders. We are action oriented. We want to see results. However, one of our greatest trials occurs when we have to wait. Are you waiting on a particular result to find its fulfillment? Are you waiting on God to place you in a more desirable place of service? Are you waiting on your church to start growing? Are you waiting on a specific prayer to be answered?

One of the last things Jesus instructed His apostles was “to wait for the Promise of the Father.” (Acts 1:4) You would think that simple command would be easy to follow. After all, those guys had been through a number of trials in the previous days. They had been through the loyalty test and received an “F.” They had seen their friend and Savior die a cruel death on a cross. I could go on and on.

Jesus knew His disciples, like us, needed a little fine tuning when He issued the command to wait. My question: What did they need that we also need? What did He want to teach them? First, Jesus wants us to trust God’s timing. God’s timing was not right for the gift of the Holy Spirit. God chose the time when Jesus would ascend to Heaven. Many times God has a plan, just around the corner, when we are ready to give up. It is not easy to trust God’s timing. God’s timing is always superior to our own. It may be that His providence has not finished the lesson He wants us to learn.

Today, I attended a church building dedication that took eighteen years to find its fulfillment. They had to wait. When Abraham and Sarah received the heir of God’s promise, Isaac, there was a timing issue. The fulfillment of that promise was a long time coming. Noah’s construction of the ark and the fulfillment of God’s prophecy was a long time coming. Noah had a long wait. Timing is everything!

After timing, God might be teaching us to “abide” in Him. The word “abide” refers to trust, dependency and reliance. In John 15:5 Jesus instructed us that the secret to bearing fruit is abiding in Him. It takes patience to wait for the ripening of fruit. We are painfully reminded of this truth if we have eaten a piece of green fruit. Green fruit will sour your stomach and draw your mouth.  

For me personally, the most important aspect of waiting is to avoid impulsive behavior and decisions. If we get impatient we may run ahead of God and do things that are poorly timed and outside of His favor.

The result of waiting is success. Isaiah advised the Israelite people to wait on God. “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Is. 40:31) The Israelites had endured years of failure, if judged by man’s standards. They had lived as slaves in captivity. Yet Isaiah encouraged them to remain to wait on God (timing) and to remain faithful (abiding).

Success is not measured by man’s standards. Success is determined by trust, dependence and reliance on God. Some of you, who are reading this piece, feel as if your life is a failure. However, you have been faithful. You have turned to the Lord and sought His face. By God’s standard, that makes you a huge success. Please, do not get discouraged and give up. Wait on the Lord!

Friday, 14 June 2013 16:07

Technologically Challenged

Written by

Are you a part of the technologically challenged? We generally use this term in reference to the older generations. However, there may be some younger adults who struggle with this issue as well. Regardless of your age, keeping up with technology is a challenge. In fact, I saw in the news that former President Bill Clinton had been reluctant to get involved in Twitter.

I am concerned with two areas when this subject involves ministers. The first area has to do with courtesy and respect. We are living in a world of information overload. We are bombarded with social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. In addition we face information overload in receiving text messages, media messages, telemarketers, mass mailings and the like. This information overload can cause us to become desensitized to the important messages, along with the junk messages. So, what does this have to do with us?

The Bible has much to say about common courtesies such as kindness, goodness, love and encouragement. If we become desensitized to messages we may very well overlook a common courtesy or act of goodness that we either need to give or that we need to receive. I am not referring to the frustrating messages. I am referring to the common everyday phone calls, text messages and emails that people send our way.

People become desensitized to voice stimuli. We should remember the Golden Rule. “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” (Matt. 7:12) People can become desensitized to our voice as they hear us teach and preach. They must approach the teaching/preaching event with an open heart. Even so, we should be careful to keep an open heart to listen when people communicate with us.

The second area that concerns me is the closed mind. It is a fact; we will never be able to keep up with changes in technology. There is a difference between being an expert and being familiar. Studies show that an overwhelming percentage of Americans use Facebook, email, text messages and the like. This is where people live each day. Paul spoke about being all things to all people. He tried to connect with people. When we familiarize ourselves with technology we give ourselves a tool for connecting with all ages in our congregation. And if we occasionally mention a text message, email or internet search we attract people’s attention, both young and old.

It must have been a challenge for Paul to adapt his ways to meet those he sought to reach. He said, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.” (I Cor. 9:19) Translation, Paul was willing to adapt in order to reach his constituency.

I sometimes say, or hear other ministers say, “I will not do that.” In essence, what we are saying is, “I have stopped growing.” If we familiarize ourselves with modern technology we slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s (Ha! Ha!), plus, we give ourselves a whole new medium for ministry. All of us want to be faithful in using every medium at our disposal. God can use everything we offer Him!

Editor’s note: June is the start of Hurricane Season, but as we have recently seen churches need to be prepared to respond to disasters at any time.  Caleb Magnino is the International Missions Pastor at The Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, TX.  He has recently responded to numerous disasters, including Haiti, Hurricane Sandy, the fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, TX, and most recently to tornado-ravaged areas in Oklahoma.

stormThey are experiences that I will never forget.

Walking among the rubble, the destruction, hearing the stories of those who had now unexpectedly found their lives turned upside down with the onset of a disaster; shouldering the weight of the shock and seeking to bring hope in the midst of the storm…that was the task set before us.

In those moments when life is uprooted, when chaos ensues and questions abound, the church has an unprecedented opportunity to be a beacon of hope to communities of people who are in dark hours.

I’ve seen it firsthand.

Often the church is one of the first forces on the ground in a disaster zone assessing the damage, listening to the needs of the community affected, and organizing relief efforts. The church can be a powerful unified force in the wake of a disaster. Before FEMA or other government agencies respond, the church is on the move.

The key lies in strategic decisions made by individual leaders in the early hours and days following a disaster.

Disaster strikes. Now how do you respond?

First of all, be ok with the thought, “I don’t know…but I’m going to figure it out.”

Welcome to disaster relief.

1. Communicate Early and Often

Be proactive in your communication efforts with your church members…as in within a few hours of the disaster. Don’t wait until you have everything nailed down and all the questions answered. Initial conversation can be as simple as letting your people know that your team is starting to assess how your church can help those stricken by disaster. Give your people immediate action steps, including “Pray” and the option to “Give” financially to support relief efforts via your team, partner churches in the affected area, or other Christian relief organizations who will mobilize into the area. Feel free to also challenge your people to consider the “Go” option to volunteer to be part of relief teams that might be mobilized in the days to come. You may not have “the exacts,” but you can still start to cultivate interest and compile an email list.

Now let me be blatantly honest. Resist the urge to immediately start collecting canned goods, bottled water and especially clothing. While the hearts of those who give mean well, those items can often pose a logistical problem during a time of disaster response either due to transportation, storage or the relevance of donated items to actual needs of residents. Every disaster is different. Listen to the true needs of the locals and then make the call for donated items if need be.

Saturday, 01 June 2013 11:56

Dealing with Unreasonable People

Written by

How do you respond to unreasonable people?  It might help if I describe unreasonable.  Unreasonable people have an evil spirit, cannot be reasoned with, are impulsive and do things to hurt others.  Every church has some of those people.  A good example of an unreasonable person was Saul.  Saul displayed all four of the aforementioned characteristics (see I Sam. 19:9-10).  After God anointed David, to be King of Israel and before he took the throne, David had to deal with an unreasonable person, Saul.  As you watch this story unfold it drags on over a period of time.  This is much like the story we often see unfolding in our churches.

In I Sam. 23-24 you see how a man of God responded to an unreasonable person.  I will list these responses in outline (sermonic) fashion.  Who knows, you might want to use these at some point.

1. When dealing with unreasonable people seek God before acting.  David did this on more than one occasion (I Sam. 23:1-2, 4, 10-12). David prayed much and waited on God.  At one point he takes up the “Ephod.”  The “Ephod” was a garment worn when a person was seriously seeking God.  It seemed to represent the presence of God.

2. When dealing with unreasonable people set a good example for other people (I Sam. 23:3; 24:6).  In verse 3 David’s men admit to being afraid. In 24:6 David’s men want David to take vengeance on Saul.  In both instances David displayed a Godly example in his behavior.  When I feel the impulse to be vindictive or to use my tongue to rip another person I am reminded of the suffering servant passage in Is. 53.  In verse 7 of that chapter it said, “He did not open his mouth.”  What an example!

3. When dealing with unreasonable people do not respond in kind (I Sam. 23:15; 25:1-6). Saul acted in an ungodly manner but David did not return the favor.  If people act one way it does not necessitate that we follow suit.  If we display a Godly example, other people will eventually show their colors.

4. When dealing with unreasonable people let God decide who is right (I Sam. 23:7-9, 26; 24:12, 21).  It is amazing, when Christian people disagree everybody thinks God is on their side.

Not long ago I read an account of the Civil War.  This particular writer pointed out that everyone claimed God was on their side.  Only God has the right to decide who is right and who is wrong. When everybody claims to be right everybody proves to be wrong.   President Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address said, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other... The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "

5. When dealing with unreasonable people do not become bitter or cynical (I Sam. 24:5-7).  David did not allow Saul’s irrational behavior to force him to be bitter, angry or cynical.

The preceding qualities are hard to emulate.  They are Christ like qualities.  I have come to believe, if I cannot display Christ like character in the midst of a trial that may be why I am going through the trial. Ouch!  Ouch!  Yes, I said it twice.  Our world and our churches need to see Christ like men standing in the pulpit.  I pray that God would help me to be one of those men.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 08:15

When God Vetoes an Idea

Written by

vetoHas God ever vetoed one of your ideas?  He has vetoed more of my ideas than I care to admit.  I wish my walk with Christ was such that I always have his stamp of approval before moving forward.  That is not always the case for me.  I have a hunch that you readers can identify with my failure.

A veto, from God, could have several meanings.  It could mean He caused something to fail.  It could mean the timing was not right.  It could mean He has something better in mind.  What kind of ideas does God veto?

  • A failed church plant
  • A revival that was poorly timed
  • An idea that was inappropriate
  • A decision that was wrong

These are just the tip of the iceberg.

I once resigned from one church, in order to accept a call from another, and realized I had made the wrong decision.  Sometimes God speaks through a still small voice.  On that occasion I felt like I had been hit with a baseball bat.  Thank goodness God and His people are gracious in such humiliating times.

God showed me an encouraging word on this subject.  When Jesus led Peter, James and John up the mountain for the transfiguration, Peter had what he probably considered, a brilliant idea.  Peter said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Matt 17:4) God vetoed that idea!  WOW!  Consider these truths.

  1. Even God’s chosen have bad ideas.  Jesus handpicked Peter, James and John to accompany Him up that mountain.  When we fail there is a tendency to doubt God’s selection of us.
  2. Past spiritual experiences do not hinder us from making poor decisions.  Jesus was transfigured before His three disciples.  Peter’s bad idea came on the heels of that experience.  Unfortunately, today’s victories do not stop tomorrow’s failures.  They may lessen them, but do not stop them.
  3. Bad ideas are a sign that we are a work in progress.  The three chosen disciples were learning, but they still had much to learn.  God uses failure to teach us some of our greatest lessons.
  4. Because of the grace of God, failure is a stepping stone.   After Peter’s bad idea, God sent a “bright cloud” as a means of communication.  He spoke these words to the disciples. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 17:5)  Translation:  Moses and Elijah are not equal with My Son.  God’s voice struck fear into the hearts of the disciples.  However, Jesus softly touched them and said, “Do not be afraid.” (vs. 7) Jesus gave the disciples assurance and the realization that they needed His support if they were to serve Him.
  5. Good intentions and good ideas do not translate into Godly ideas.  Peter had, humanly speaking, a good idea.  Peter had good intentions.  God knew something that Peter did not realize.  That shortcoming did not mean Peter was a failure.  He was given a new revelation and growth experience.

I am so grateful that God is gracious.  He coaches us through bad ideas.  He grows us from our failures.  He raises us from our low points to greater service.  The world penalizes failure.  God uses it to prepare us!  

Page 13 of 14

Your donation to the Shepherd's Connection is tax-deductible. By following the donation link you will find instructions for making a donation with your check, debit or credit card.

Popular Articles

News Items

Feed not found.

Our Daily Bread

Daily Devotionals
  • Our Sure Foundation

    For many years, people in our city built and bought homes in areas subject to landslides. Some knew about the risk of the unstable land, while others were not told. “Forty years of warnings

    ...
  • Blooming in the Right Spot

    “A weed is any plant that grows where you don’t want it,” my father said, handing me the hoe. I wanted to leave the corn plant that had “volunteered” among the peas.

    ...
  • Mercy over Judgment

    When my children were squabbling and came to me to tattle on one another, I took each child aside separately to hear their account of the problem. Since both were guilty, at the end of our chat I

    ...