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We Have Life Like a River (part 2)

In the previous life-is-more-like-a-river-than-a-box-of-chocolates post an attempt was made to show how God crafted a river from start to finish, knows all the aspects of that river, and placed obvious boundaries along the way to contain and govern it. With imagination we can see the boundaries as God’s revealed will or plan. For this to work we need to pretend we are living before the era of balloons, planes and drones. We cannot see life from the same exact perspective or see too far down the river’s course. Still, God gives us boundaries and guidelines for how to navigate the reservoirs and rapids, shallow pools and fierce boulders, and clear and cluttered water.

The second part of this river thing is the vehicle in which we venture down the river. At times it could be a simple float, a canoe, a raft, or a boat. Those vehicles represent the choices you make, the place where you are at, and the people with whom you share that portion of the river. The vehicle always falls within the parameters of the banks of the river (God’s revealed will). C’mon, think about it: how successful can one be paddling a raft over land?

Sometimes a person may desire and attempt to swim upstream in defiance. How obviously futile because ultimately the river will carry him to the place God has destined for him (Psa. 104:14; Matt. 5:45). Yes, God allows us to freely move within the bounds of the limits of God’s will. Even when a person is defiant God is still at work (Gen. 50:20; Ex. 14:17; Isa. 66:4; Rom. 2:4; 9:22; 2 Thess. 2:11). One might work hard to travel against the currents, yet God restrains him and limits his sinful efforts (Gen. 6:3; Job 1:12; 2:6; Psa. 76:10; Isa. 10:15; Acts 7:51).

Other times canoeing or rafting gets tiresome so it’s easier to ride a bigger vessel. What if you, as a believer in Christ, find yourself in a particular carrier that stinks, is rotting, and filled with and evil captain or crew? God still brings you along the river for your ultimate good according to his wonderful design (Gen. 50:20; Judges 9:24; 1 Kgs. 12:15; Psa. 76:10; Isa. 6:9f; Acts 3:13; etc.)! This is the great news for the believer in Jesus Christ – that God moves his own people along the river in such a way that even though the vehicle changes, and the fellow passengers change, and the nature of the river seems to change, God brings his own to the final destination all for their ultimate good (Rom. 8:28ff).

As we know, there are times on the river when things are peaceful and smooth. You and I can sit back and relax under while basking comfortably below the winking sun. We get soothed to sleep by the gentle undulation and the musical rhythm of a soft river band. Whether it was because we managed to steer our way into a wet alcove or that we just happened upon the calm, such a rest is good. This kind of serenity is only a sip of the perfected water to come when the river pours us onto God’s everlasting sea (Rev. 4:6, 21:18ff). Our river ride is only one portion of the long course. This easy cruise can easily lull us into the pleasures of a lazy comfort zone. The problem is, it does not always serve God’s purposes to change our hearts, reform our character, and transform us into the likeness of our Ship’s Captain (Rom. 8:28ff; Eph. 4:24f).

So, by God’s design the river of life twists and turns, is calm and then violent, carries us swiftly or drives us slowly, parks us in pools or sends us down unbearable rapids. God keeps us in wonderment. Though at times we might be anxious and alarmed God is neither worried nor surprised about it. Hey, it’s his river after all. Think about the time when Captain Jesus fell asleep in the hull of the boat and a wicked storm arose (okay, so he and the crew were on a lake, but roll with it). What did he do? He slept deeply until the panicked sailors woke him up. He trusted in God’s ultimate plan (it was not yet time for him to die) and therefore did not worry. Yeah, it was helpful that he was also God and had the power over the storm and the sea; but that wasn’t cheating. He had no fear because he trusted his Father-God’s water-whipped scheme. Whatever the circumstance of the river, and whatever the vehicle in which we find ourselves, God calls us to trust in him, that faithful creator and then do what he declares is right (1 Peter. 4:19).

Those tumultuous times are given to you and me for many reasons. First, that we might not be lazy or complacent. Second, that we would be challenged to grow. Think about it. If you are in a boat and coming to a swift-currented curve with category four rapids what could you do? Panic? Maybe. Like that wouldn’t bring about disastrous consequences? You could be thrown overboard; maybe even drown? You could be injured. In your panic you would not be in a position to help another, resulting in their injury or death. Regardless, it is not what God intends for us to think or do. He wants us not to fear and always have a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:6ff). He wants us to learn how to row, when to row, and how to just go with the flow.

Even in such times we must be reminded to look back and remember what we know about the character of God and the nature of his plan for us. We should be encouraged to recall that God is not only looking down from above, but is present with us in our circumstances. We should force ourselves to look intently at those moments and see God’s gracious hand in them. Anyone who has experienced river rafting knows it’s a mistake not to follow the guide’s orders and example. Our Guide teaches us what to do, how to do it, and when to do so. We know all too well when we don’t follow the leader.

God constantly urges us to grow and change. Turbulent events can motivate us to think, to apply what we have been taught, to exercise wisdom To become more proficient as river boaters or floaters we must change. If we come across some bad rapids and are caught off guard the first time, but learn from the experience how to navigate and ride the rapids well, then the next time we are better prepared. We then come to learn how to plan for those contingencies and how to encounter them again. For some of us that means going through the experience several times in order to navigate well (the story of my life). Such occasions can teach us to think less about ourselves and think how we can protect or save others. Those events along the river can cause us to develop fit bodies, firm minds and faith-filled hearts. Those situations can instruct how to fully trust God. If we learn about the Lord and learn from him while in our boat riding the river’s course we might even come to enjoy the next rapids ahead?

As with any great and long river, there are always places we cannot see. Sometimes we cannot even imagine it. Certainly God has the bird’s eye view. All we can do is peer as far ahead as possible. Yes, there are those contingencies we don’t want to encounter, like a waterfall or a whirlpool. Nevertheless God created those things too. If we are prepared and learn to appreciate the adventure then waterfalls and whirlpools can be thrilling.

Whether through calm or calamity God does not leave us alone to navigate. He gives us just exactly what we need, not only for our relationship with him, but for everything imaginable in life (2 Pet. 3:3-11). He gives us Jesus Christ. In Christ we belong to God. Further, we have everything that belongs to Christ (Eph. 1:6, 18; Jn. 17:22; Rom. 8:30; Col. 3:4). Though we cannot comprehend it we will be able to claim it all at the end of the ride down by the river’s side (1 Pet. 1:4; Eph. 1:14; Col. 3:24; Heb. 9:15)!

He provides us with his navigational guide – the Bible. While not an explicitly detailed how-to book we love to read – or not (believe it or not there really are some people love those detailed, how-to directions), it gives us the tools to become skilled at navigating the water. The Lord not only supplies us with his direction (learning to read the banks of the river), he also gives us the ability to do so by his Spirit (1 Cor. 1-2). The Holy Spirit becomes our pilot. God sends him to come alongside and inside to help (Jn. 14:16; 15:26; Acts 9:31; 2 Cor. 1:3; 7:4). What does he do to help us in the river?

1. He teaches us (Jn. 16:12-15; Lk, 12:12; 1 Cor. 2:10-16; 1 Jn. 2:27; Jn. 14:26; Rom. 8:16; 1 Thess. 4:9; Eph. 4:21). All we need to do with the capacity to hear him is listen! Often the problem is, we are too absorbed with the waves and currents of life that we allow them to drown the Spirit’s voice out. Sometimes we hear him but refuse to be taught, or to do what he tells us (1 Thess. 5:19; Eph. 4:30). Of course, that almost always leads us where we really ought not to be (and probably don’t want to go)
2. The Spirit guides us. After all, being God he knows the best course to take down the river (Rom. 8:14-16; Jn. 16:13; Psa. 25:9; 31:3; 32:8; 23). He does so through God’s Word.
3. He convicts us – shows us where we are wrong in our course. If we try to run upstream or run aground of the bank he lets our consciences know (2 Tim. 3:16,17; Jn. 16:8-11). This gives us an opportunity to turn about (repent) and get back on track (exercise trust).
4. He assures us. He assures us that God loves and cares for us because we are his (Rom. 8:16; 1 Jn. 3:19; 5:11-13). He gives us the peace of Christ that is sometimes incomprehensible (Jn 14:27; 16:33; Rom. 1:7; 15:13; Gal. 1:3; 5:22). This assurance is possible because the Holy Spirit places us into Christ who is our peace and joy.

Okay, so what’s the point? Hopefully, it’s clearer than mud. The point of the previous post is that God is in control of life, even when we feel life is out of control. The point of this post is that God gives us the tools and vehicles to navigate through life. Therefore, we can rest without worry as we go rolling down the river. At the same time, we need to become more adept at using the crafts we find ourselves in, while becoming more and more fit in body, soul, heart and mind. Why? Catch this:  this river ride is prepping us for the big cruise on eternity’s ocean.

Signing off as Seaman Apprentice,

Don

We Have Life Like a River (part 2)2014-11-08T00:00:00-07:00

We Have Life Like a River (part 1)

Life is like a __________. A what?

Like a box of chocolates because you never know what you get? Like a vacuum cleaner because sometimes it sucks? Like an endless storm because it’s always raining on your parade? Like a vacation because, well… oh, who ever says that?

One apt illustration for our personal ventures this side of heaven is that life is like going down a river. This river is somewhat like the stream of life on which we navigate, float, swim, or ride. Our personal life is like sitting in a kayak, or sharing a riverboat, or bobbing up and down with a little plastic inner tube.

Let’s think of life as a river that God has made.  The river represents God’s plan of history. At some point before human history the only sovereign Lord of the universe made a plan. God can do this because he has absolute power, complete control (Ex. 3:20; 6:6; 3:14; Isa. 41:4) and total authority (Ex. 3; 20; Lev. 18-19; Psa. 33:6; Jn. 1:1ff). This plan has a beginning and an end. The width, depth, the speed of the current, the volume of water, and all the natural features along and in its course are installed by God. From beginning to end, God works the river’s design according to his own pleasure and for his own glory (Psa. 33:6,10-11; Isa. 46:10; Heb. 6:13-18; Heb. 11:3).

So the river represents God’s plan. In prehistory, God ordained  how the river’s course would run (Rom. 9:22-23; Eph. 1:4, 11). The river flows through history and even carries history to a predetermined destiny or goal. Because God is good, fair, and loving we are assured that the destiny to which this river leads is grand and very good (Gen. 1:31; Psa. 73; 84:11; Mk. 10:18; Lk. 18:19; Phil 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:4).

Not long after man (male and female human) was created he rebelled against God and God’s good plan (Gen. 3; Eccles. 7:29; Rom. 5:12-19). You might say he wanted a pool when God designed a river.  This rebellion by man caused an upheaval in and around the river.  Instead of a beautiful, smooth flowing river it is now seemingly unpredictable. Sometimes beautiful, other times ugly. Sometimes clear and smooth, other times muddy and rough. However, since God is so great and powerful he is in charge of everything that happens. He is a providential God who does his good works through the river of life. His providence is universal (Eph. 1:1; Rom. 11:36; Psa. 115:3). He governs and preserves all creation, all creatures, and their actions (Heb. 1:3; Psa. 103:19; Matt. 10:29). God even governs life through natural events (Psa. 29: Isa. 44:27). He can do so because he is set apart from everything in the universe (we call this transcendence), while he also engages and inserts himself into his universe (we call this immanence). He is all-powerful (omnipotent) and all-knowing (omniscient and wise) (Psa. 1145:17; Isa. 28:29). Even though at times the river seems serene and restful, then wild and unruly, peaceful and then unpredictable God still has total control of it (Psa. 8:3-8; 146:6; Neh. 9:6; John 1:3; Acts 14:15; 17:24; Col. 1:16). He is indeed in control of all things in all time according to his Word and power (Eph. 1:11; Heb. 1:3; Psa. 147:15; 148:5).

The sin of mankind could not disrupt the mighty and good plan of God. He will still bring it to its good and wonderful destiny. This is because God himself is wonderful. He is love, wise, holy, just, true and good (Jn. 4:24; Job. 11:7; Psa. 90:2; Jas. 1:17; Ex. 3:14; Psa. 147:5; Rev. 4:8; 15:4; Ex. 34:6-7; etc.). We must never forget this. In fact we must always bring this to mind as we ride the river’s calm current or its rough rapids.

We must understand too, that God is not merely some unknowable entity beyond the universe. Though he is not part of his creation the Lord is still present and intimately involved in it (Gen. 45:5; Psa. 29:3ff). He is present at every point and turn, and in the ups and downs of the river (Ex. 6:8; Isa. 26:4-8; Mal. 3:6; Hos. 12:4; Dt. 32:9; Psa. 135:4). God is not an absentee river maker and river captain. He is also present with and in our affairs and lives as we travel along the river (Ex. 3:12-14). For those who have placed faith in the Son of God, life on the river takes a whole different meaning. We cannot even begin to imagine the wonders and beauties and goodness that lay ahead for those who trust in God through Christ (1 Cor. 2:9).

God providentially rules over people’s hearts (Pro. 16:9; 21:1; Isa. 44:28; Psa. 33:15ff; Jas. 4:13-17). We should take comfort in this because the ride of life sometimes becomes torturous especially if we happen to share a craft with wicked people. God is even in control of evil hearts because, as we said, he intends to bring everything along and in the river toward a good end. It is very curious but also reassuring that God often overrules evil men to accomplish good things (Gen. 50:20; Judges 9:24; 1 Kgs. 12:15; Psa. 2; 7, 12-13; 11:6; Isa. 6:9f; Dt. 29:4; Rev. 17:17). God even controls the river in such a way as to lead people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ (Mic. 4:7; Isa. 1:9; Acts 16:14; Jn. 3; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 2:8-10).

The river is like life ordained and overseen by a good and perfect God. The banks of the river are the limits that define it. The banks of the river are God’s revealed will. His will is a very real and personal truth that addresses life’s issues, problems and questions. As Dr. R. Stuart points out, it is crucial for us to understand the nature and character of God to get a proper perspective of our lives. It is crucial to understand God’s involvement in our lives, as these essential truths about him are river-bottom relevant to us. Those truths are (a) God is Lord and therefore sovereign in good and bad circumstances, (b) God is now working and will accomplish his perfect plan, (c) that plan is good and complete, lacking in nothing because it is based on his love for us, and finally (d) God’s will for us is absolutely the best since he is re-shaping us into the good image of his Son Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).

Have you ever gone on a river cruise? Tried river rafting? How about canoeing up a river? With or without a paddle? Okay, what about sitting on a huge inner tube an gently floating down the river? Each offers a different experience. Each experience contributes to your life in some way. The more dramatic the experience the deeper the influence and the impact. Life does that, but it is God who inserts us into various experiences in order to shape us, not the river, to become stronger, fitter, wiser and better.

If we have a weak understanding of God and his work we will have a terrible time trying to express a faith-rest in God. We will learn to hate the river, maybe even learn to hate water? It would a great challenge to trust that God IS in control of my circumstances and my life even though, like a swift and violent river, my life seems out of control if I do not have all four of these critical truths under my life vest.

At a given point of time and space, with perfectly good wisdom God placed you and me in life’s river (Psa. 139:16; Gal. 1:15,16). He could have placed you in the river 5739 years ago or 201 years from now. But you are in the river of life just when and where God put you. That should give you comfort, because people are not subject to chance, fate or unknown force. We are not out of our element or in the wrong environment of history. We are just where God placed us to ride the current for as long as God determines. Nothing is by accident, and the life we have is not a mistake.

Life is like a river. God knows exactly how to bring you along in that river. Sometimes he puts you in a big, black tube and allows you to enjoy a smooth flowing, cool bob on a hot summer day. Perhaps the worst thing to happen would be to get those red, burn marks from the constant rowing of your arms? Other moments in your life are like the enjoyment of a delicious supper on deck of a modern cruise ship or on an old, restored riverboat? Still, another episode in your life you might find yourself in a row boat with a couple friends without that paddle. Or perhaps you’ve fallen overboard and are desperately trying to keep from drowning? So, where are you at right now in the river of life?

Let’s talk about that in the next post.

We Have Life Like a River (part 1)2014-11-07T00:00:00-07:00

Man! What a Character!

In a previous post it was pointed out that that the original man, Adam, was created in the image of God with the essential abilities and qualities of character (to be), comprehension (to know), competence (to do), and connection (to bond). He was the epitome of a real man. But then, Adam fell by sin into sin and those abilities and qualities become distorted. This man of truly distinguished character became one of extinguished character.

The good news is that God became Man in Jesus Christ. He is the new Adam. He is the ultimate of distinguished manhood (and personhood) whose perfect abilities and qualities will never be extinguished. Those who trust and believe in him as the God-Man who came to redeem us by his perfect life, his death on the cross, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven (1 Cor. 15:3-8) are saved from the penalty and the effects of sin. The new Real Man, Jesus, not only redeems those who believe in him but also repairs them.

This gives us hope because our extinguished character is becoming distinguished. We are being refashioned into the image of God (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10). Like Eustace Scrubb in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, who, on his own, attempts and fails to remove the scales of his dragon body, we cannot change back to the pure person of sinless Adam. Like Eustace needed Aslan, we need Jesus to put his new life into us (Rom. 6) and to put us into his life (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 1:3-10). However, though given a new identity and a new life we still must continue to work to remove the residual parts of our old, dead self while putting on Christ-likeness (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:8-9). Though this is done by Christ’s life-creating power (Eph. 1:19-20) through his Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12) and Spirit, we are still called to discipline our lives to become more God-like (1 Tim. 4:7; 2 Pet. 1:3-11).

What kind of character is this into which we are being remade? Obviously, it is the distinguished character of Jesus. The pattern in the Bible is that true leaders in God’s kingdom are to be the excellent examples of godly character. To be a leader in the Church means that the man holds and displays godly virtues (see 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1). These men should exemplify the new Man, Jesus, and in turn press other men of Christian faith to “man up” and take on real manliness. In turn Christian men (single, married, fathers, and grandfathers) are to live as models of the Real Man for all believers and before a watching world.

With that, let’s first look at the extinguishing qualities and then we will check out the distinguishing characteristics of godliness.

 

What do the traits of the extinguished character look like?

Taken from such passages as Isaiah 2:1ff; Joel 2:28-30; Matthew 15:19; Acts 2:19-23; Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3:5,8,9; 1 Timothy 3:1-12; 4:1-7; 2 Timothy 3:1-4, the following list describes the character and vices of a carnal, ungodly person:

  1. Lover of self; self-centered; self-seeking.
  2. Proud
  3. Covetous, greedy; lusting after things that don’t belong to him
  4. Braggarts; boastful
  5. Not a true worshipper; blasphemous
  6. Disobedient to parents; rebellious
  7. Disrespectful
  8. Lacks gratitude
  9. Sensual, living to satisfy his own desires.
  10. Perverted; immoral
  11. Little to no self-control
  12. Untrustworthy; breaks promises
  13. Gossip
  14. Slanderer
  15. Betrays others; not loyal.
  16. Abusive
  17. Uncontrolled temper; hot-tempered.
  18. Reckless.
  19. Unwise.
  20. Lover of pleasure and self-gratification rather than lover of God
  21. Deceitful; the truth is hard to take or give.
  22. Outwardly religious, but hypocritical. Powerless to live a godly life
  23. Allows self to be deceived by doctrines of demons.
  24. Possesses a seared conscience (more and more insensitive to the Lord, His Word, virtue, etc.)
  25. Self-destructive, careless.
  26. Takes for consumption and personal satisfaction.
  27. Curses; doesn’t bless.
  28. Hateful; not truly loving.
  29. Foolish.
  30. Unforgiving; vengeful.

We could also add the opposite features for what it required to be a deacon or elder in Christ’s Church, which would include:

  1. Has a bad reputation
  2. Unrestrained control
  3. Pugnacious
  4. Quarrelsome
  5. Greedy
  6. Slave to selfish anger
  7. Given to much wine (or controlled by and abuses drugs or alcohol)
  8. Lacks self-control; is undisciplined
  9. Self-willed and arrogant
  10. Irreverent at heart
  11. Inhospitable
  12. Unjust
  13. Unwise
  14. Irresponsible

 

What are the features of a distinguished character?

Someone with distinguished character is a person of “engraved distinctive quality” who remains steadfast in moral excellence. One who lives a praiseworthy life. A person of special quality in whom others willingly place their trust. A person with a controlled mind, will, emotions, attitudes, etc. The office of a deacon, elder or minister requires high standards of integrity because it is the office of a holy and perfect King.

1. The man is above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6).

His wife, children, other family, neighbors, work mates, boss, and fellow members at church can honestly give a good report about his character.

2. He has restrained control (a balanced discipline) in his life (1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Thess. 5:6, 8)

3. He is a true gentle man (approachable, kind, gracious, firm yet diplomatic)  (Matt. 11:29; Acts 24:4; 2 Cor. 10:1;          Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 2:7; 2 Tim. 2:23-25; Jas. 3:17).

4. He is not pugnacious or prone to violence (Prov. 3:30; 15:18; 17:14; 20:3; 25:8; 26:17; Phil. 2:3; 1 Tim. 3:3;Tit.1:7).

5. He is not quarrelsome (Eccles. 10:4; Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14; 1 Tim. 3:2, 3; 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:22-26;           Tit. 3:9; Jas. 3:17).

6. He is not greedy (Acts 20:33; 1 Tim. 3:3; 6:5-10; 2 Tim. 3:6-7; Tit. 1:7).

7. He is not given easily to selfish anger (Prov. 16:32; Tit. 1:7).

8. He is not overly indulgent or a drunk (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7).

The principle is that he has disciplined control over bodily appetites (Gen. 19; Prov. 20:1; 23; Eccles. 10:17; Isa. 5:11; 28:1; Luke 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Eph. 5:18).

9. He is self-controlled  (Matt. 26:41; Acts 24:25; Rom. 6:12; 1 Cor. 10:12; Eph. 5:4; Tit. 1:8; Jas. 3:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-7;5:8).

10. He is truly humble and not self-willed (Luke 14:10; Rom. 12:3, 10, 16; Phil 2:3; Ti. 1:7; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5).

11. The man is holy (biblically devout and pious) (Lev. 11:45; Luke 1:74, 75; 2 Cor. 7:1; Tit. 1:8; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet.                1:16; 2 Pet. 3:11).

 Worship is a priority for him, which is shown by his commitment to personal, family, and corporate worship.

12. His persona and life demonstrate biblical hospitality. He has a love for people and a care for strangers; and it       shows  (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Ti. 1:9; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9).

13. He is just (upright and impartial in dealing with people) (Deut. 16:20; Ps. 82:3; Prov. 21:3; Isa. 56:1; Rom. 13:7;  Col.            4:1; Tit. 1:8).

14. The man is a lover of good. He has a love of virtue, people and good things  (Heb. 3:6; 4:14; 10:23; 1 Thess.                5:21; Tit. 1:8; Rev. 3:3).

15. He is prudent and wise (skilled at bringing God’s thoughts to bear on matters of life) (Proverbs; 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit.           1:8).

16. He is respectable (well-ordered, well-arranged, decorous in behavior and speech; good manners) (1 Tim. 3:2).

17. If he is married he is a godly leader of his wife and family (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Tit. 1:6).

a.  He loves his wife as he loves himself (Eph. 5:28ff).

b.  He loves his wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25ff).

c. He lives with his wife in an understanding way (1 Pet. 3:7).

d. He is the loving and godly pastor of his family – teaching, admonishing, and correcting them (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).

How do I become more like the Real Man, Jesus?

Here are a few ideas for you:

  1. To others, make a verbal commitment to take off those ungodly characteristics and put on Christ-likeness.
  1. Write down your commitment and then write out an action plan for change and growth.
  1. Do a self-assessment of godly qualities (one tool is to use my A Self-Examination in Godliness) to see where God has strengthened the good virtues in you and what obvious areas you need growth.
  1. Practice again and again the character qualities already predominant in your life.
  1. Put off those extinguishable character traits and put on the opposite, godly virtues. (Note: it usually takes fourteen weeks to establish good habits of the heart).
  1. You already have the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper to help make this transformation from the extinguishable to the distinguishable. Yet, find and utilize other resources to help you (people, a Life Group, pastor, elders, books, DVDs, blogs, Bible studies, etc.)
  1. Create a healthy, positive climate and environment to help you change and grow.
  1. Recruit others to help you. Develop relationships with those who are strong in the character qualities in which you need to change or grow.

If you need help with any of this talk with your pastor, an elder, or if you wish contact me.

 

Here’s to becoming quite the character!

Don Owsley

.

______________________________________________

For further study:

Bridges, Jerry. The Practice of Godliness. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1983.

____________ The Pursuit of Holiness.   Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1978.

Elliot, Elisabeth. The Mark of a Man. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1981.

Getz, Gene. The Measure of a Man. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2004.

Hughes, R. Kent. Disciplines of a Godly Man. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991.

Morley, Patrick. The Man in the Mirror. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997.

Packer, J.I. Rediscovering Holiness. Servant Press, nd.

Ryle, J. C. Holiness. Banner of Truth, nd.

 

 

Man! What a Character!2014-10-31T00:00:00-06:00

The Art of Connecting with People

How well do you connect with others? How deep can you take the initial connection and develop a deeper relationship?

“Connect” as defined by The New Oxford Dictionary on my MacBook Pro, is

* To bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established
* join together so as to provide access and communication
* associate or relate in some respect
* (of a thing) provide or have a link or relationship with (someone or something)
* form a relationship or feel an affinity

Thanks to technological advances and modern media our contemporary society is more connected than ever before. Yet, hardly any of us need to be told that we are less socially engaged than ever before. It seems that to the degree of our connections through social media to the opposite degree are our interpersonal and intimate relationships. Indeed, people are connecting more but relating less.

It also appears that many are starved for relationships, but have apparently not learned the art of connecting well and in healthy ways with other people. Even this post on the art of connection can easily be irrelevant if it is merely an informational piece that is not  applied.

In fact, an individual can be a skilled and polished communicator and a relatively good listener yet never really connect with people. Extroverts and those who thrive on being with people seem more adept at connecting but may never engage and relate with others in healthy ways.

Good leaders connect with people. Great leaders do so effectively. Leaders influence others. Good leaders influence others for the good of the individual and/or the community. John Maxwell in his Becoming a Person of Influence wrote, “Connection is …absolutely critical if you want to influence people in a positive way. When you navigate for others, you come alongside them and travel their road for a while, helping them handle some of the obstacles and difficulties in their live. But when you connect with them, you are asking them to come alongside you and travel your road for your and their mutual benefit.”

There is a difference between the act of connecting and the art of connecting. On the one hand, the act of connecting is merely relating at a basic, casual or surface level. Social media and technology have made this skill quite easy. On the other hand, the art of connecting is taking the relationship to deeper layers in ways that are valuable and effective for positive influence. This is how many can experience new emotions and level of connection with people.

The act of connection requires listening and good verbal skills, but the art of connection also requires respect, sharing similar interests, experiences and values,  having a sincere interest in helping people grow and succeed, the ability to empathize. In other words, positive, healthy and effective connections are other-focused that is not only for your interest but also in their best interest. The art of interpersonal connection does this.

 

So, what are some ways to effectively connect with people?

Here are six suggested ways to take connecting from an act to an art that makes for better, more effective relationships:

1. See people as having value. After all, they are made in the image of God.
  • Have a healthy interest in others. Selfish people may be able to connect, but they rarely make solid connections. Proud people at times will connect with others, but it tends to be shallow and short-lived. Humble, other-focused people genuinely relate and make significant connection with others.
  • Recognize and respect differences in people’s personalities.
  • Treat them with kindness and courtesy. Remember Christ’s “golden rule” (Luke 6:31).
  • Give them a sense that they are really important. They may not be important to you, but they matter to God! Making one feel important is more powerful as a motivator than money, promotion, working conditions, or almost anything else.
2. Take the initiative to better know them and to consider how you might help them.
How?

Greet them warmly.

Meet them sincerely

Consider them potentially

The vast majority of friends you have were at one time unknown strangers. For a variety of reasons you and those strangers became friends.  All strangers are potential friends.  So, seek to get to know others with whom you connect by considering how you might become friends. One helpful tool I use is the acrostic “friend” (see below).  Most people are happy to tell you about themselves, but be aware of those who could feel distressed by your questions. Obviously, you need to be sensitive to body language or verbal cues that could indicate they are too uncomfortable with your inquiry. In any case, you can come up with additional questions or thoughts, but these are useful for starters:

Family –

Discover something about the person and his or her family. Does s/he come from a small or large family? Single or married?  Does s/he live with family?  Etc.

Recreation –

What hobbies does s/he enjoy? What kinds of things does s/he like to do for fun or to express a talent?

Interests –

What kinds of interests does this person have: animals, reading, philosophy, music, social cause, and so forth?

Education –

Where did s/he attend elementary or high school? Has s/he continued education beyond that? Would s/he like to get an advanced degree? Is s/he pursuing courses or seminars to enhance her or his growth?

Needs –

Did sh/e recently move into the area? Need any help getting settled or finding things? Looking for a new church? Financially challenged? Is there anything that I or we can reasonably do to help?
As Christians we have the greatest answer to the deepest and most serious need of all!

Dinner or dessert –

At this point you may wish to take your connection to the next level. You could simply ask something like, “How would you like to get together for coffee?” Perhaps even be more bold and say, “We’d like to have you over for dessert, would you be interested?”

3. Find common interests or share common experiences.
4. Communicate from the heart.

Don’t center the introduction or conversation on your own life. Allow the other person to get to know you, but make it a higher priority to find out about their lives. For some people this will be quite easy as they if they are more outgoing, needy, or even self-absorbed. For others, trying to draw them out in order to engage them in a caring way might be met with skepticism or distrust, or perhaps they do not know how to talk about themselves without being too self-conscious.

One way to communicate with heart this is to actually say, “Tell me, what’s your story?” Then listen with attentiveness and empathy. Be honest and authentic in the dialog, and let them do most of the talking.

5. Spend time with them in order to connect at a deeper level.

Spending time by sharing something in common helps build relationships. Certainly there are many ways to spend time together. However, three effective ways to get to know someone better are eating a meal together, having fun together, and working on a common project together.

6. Sustain an on-going connection through genuine care:

a. Encourage – build them up, help to increase their confidence, and give them hope for the future.

b. Appreciate – show gratitude for their specific contributions.

c. Affirm – show and tell them you admire their personal gifts, talents, and strengths.

d. Recognize – express to others their accomplishments. Brag about them in a way that is truthful and elevates            them in the eyes of others.

e. Confront – with permission, address his or her failures, mistakes, or sins with gentleness, truth, and love so               that s/he may change, grow and improve.

 

Connecting with people has never been easier than it is today. However, connecting with people at a deeper relational level has, for many, become an unknown skill or a lost art. This article provides you with six suggested ways to take connecting from an act to an art that makes for better, more effective relationships.  Practice one or more of these things each day and watch how you will begin to develop better relationships and more friends.

If you need any help with this just let me know.

Cheers;

Don

The Art of Connecting with People2014-10-21T00:00:00-06:00

Be a Real Man!

South Fellowship is having their men’s retreat this mid-October weekend. It’s not clear from what the men are retreating, but it sounds like they will have great time doing so. Perhaps next year I’ll be able join in retreating?

In any case, this got me thinking about a subject near and dear to me: man-ness. The essence of being a real man. Every era and culture has its own definition or expectations for what a manly male is like. Right now you could Google until you Yahoo, searching billions and billions of books,  blogs, articles, myths, stories and poems on man-ness. Frankly, I enjoy The Art of Manliness as it provides historical, hysterical and helpful articles on the subject. The author even gives very practical lessons on such things as how to paddle a canoe or how to date a woman, 1950’s style (which might include paddling a canoe while on a date with a woman?)

Christian leaders have authored books on the subject; of course. Some will have you believing that a real “Christian” man is tough, gruff, and filled with stuff with the looks, build and strength of Superman. You know, Superman with a halo! Others focus only upon character. Still others bring more opinion to the table than substance from the Creator of men. Sadly, such sources tend to pontificate from the imaginations of the proud. In other words, it’s more an exhortation to “think like I think and do like I do and you’ll be a real man.” My thought? Don’t try this at home!

Before you allow me to chase rabbits further off the beaten path, let me get back to trying to give a description and somewhat of a narrative from God’s Word about man-ness. After all, God created male and female. His original male was a true man; a real man; the normal man. Hopefully, God’s Word informs this article far more than my pompous opinion.  With that, let’s dig in further to see what is meant by this.

 

The Original Man was a Real Man

The original man, Adam, was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27;5:1; 9:6 Ps. 52:1; 1 Cor. 11:7; 15:49; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; Jas. 3:9).   This means he was created with:

Connection

Like God, the original man, named Adam, was created as a social being. By the way, I like that name. It means dirt or more precisely, red clay. So guys, if someone says your name is mud, they really aren’t too far from the truth.

As a creature he was created with the need and ability to relate with others, namely with God and with people. The essence of this connection was love. Man was also given an earth suit (body) in order to relate with others and to have an active affinity with God’s new creation. Adam’s body was endowed with perfect health, incredibly chiseled strength, and absolute masculine beauty – – every woman’s desire and every man’s wish.

Comprehension –

Man was made to know and be known. God gave Adam brilliance, gifted with the highest intelligence and emotional quotients. He was made analogous to God in his thinking, though with knowledge that is created, limited and acquired. He was made to think God’s thoughts after God, to learn truth, to understand himself and others, and to fully know the wonders of creation. In other words, Adam surpassed the best of all Renaissance men. He was also created to be in consort and in council with God, and then announce and proclaim the will of Heaven on earth.

Character –

Adam was created with the capacity and ability to do God’s will, because he could and would make choices consistent with God’s will. As such he was created with moral excellence and integrity. He was holy and godly (which means God-like)

Call –

Adam was made a man with a mission. He was created with the inclination and executive power to do the right things. God issued a call to him to be responsible, productive, and to serve creation and God’s creatures. This service was as a co-ruler, not for domination but for glorification of God’s creation.

The original man was the “normal” man. He was a real man!

 

But Man Had a Great Fall

Though created innocent, Adam failed a major test: he failed to believe God, to proclaim the Law of God when he was tempted by , and to speak God’s will with clarity and directness to his bride and the enemy (Genesis 3). He also failed to guard the garden and guard his bride from the deceiver. In his failing a transformation took place within Adam. He wanted to become just like God in ways that was impossible. He also wanted to dominate and rule as an equal with God. This transformation from normalcy is called sin. Adam sinned and henceforth became a sinner. He became abnormal.

Judicially, Adam represented all mankind; but he also passed this deformity on to all those who descended from him. Since then, we are all born with the condition of sin. This defect in normalcy quickly affected humanity and the environment in which all live. It also had a ripple effect in the unseen spiritual dimension.

Another sad consequence was that man became ignorant, guilty, sinful, and disconnected. The penalty was that he suffered spiritual death (Eph. 2:1-5), judicial death (Rom. 5:16), and a psycho-social death (Gen. 3:19). The result of spiritual death was a horrific disconnect from God, and a disability in understanding spiritual realities. The fallout of judicial death rendered Adam incapable of ever meeting up to God’s holy standards and ever being pure like God. Consequently, sin caused him to have character defects. It also rendered him incapable of being completely unbiased and rendering fair judgments. As hard as he might try, he would not be able to be perfectly equitable and impartially just. The psycho-social death negatively affected all relationships, since his propensity toward selfishness, lust, and power would only bring about some level of conflict in all his relations. From the moment of that fall man would lose the struggle to be an ideal servant and a responsible steward. Instead man is inclined to dominate and rule, often abusively. This fall from God into a dark condition would pollute and contaminate not only relationships with other people, but also other creatures and with God’s good creation.

This fall into a state of sin and misery reverses what God created as normal. Man now thinks himself to be wise, but without reference to God (Rom. 1-3). His inclination is to suppress God’s truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Therefore, he twists and redefines truth, and assumes God’s Word is subject to man’s judgment. This is not truly normal.

Man also set himself as the standard of good and evil. He seeks to be worshiped rather than to worship God. Either that or he seeks to create a god in his own image and build a kingdom on earth as it is in his head. He desires not self-sacrifice but self-aggrandizement. He also no longer seeks to give unselfishly, but rather seeks to get for himself. Rather than glorifying creation as a steward he seeks to dominate. His tendency now is to misuse and abuse. He seeks to conquer. What’s more, his new impulse is either toward laziness or “workaholism.”

While this is the reversal of God’s original blueprint for what it means to be a real man, this does not mean that men are as bad as they could be. Contrary to what some believe, men do relatively good things. The hope given to mankind is that God put into place his plan to reverse the effects of the great reversal. Confused yet? In other words, God has made a way for abnormal man to become God’s normal man, to become a “real” man.

 

The New Man

The preexistent, eternal God became a man (John 1; Heb. 2:6-8; Col. 1:15). He became a “normal” human while retaining his divinity. This was Jesus the new Adam, but perfect God (1 Cor. 15:45-49). Jesus started his ministry in the place of the wilderness, the figurative arena for the kind of fallen life that man suffers (Matt. 4). The place where sin-infused man-ness resides. Jesus entered into that place in order to bring mankind out of the wilderness and back to the place of Eden’s normalcy. Well, actually beyond Eden to an eventual new heaven and a new earth.

Jesus was rightly and perfectly connected to God and others through love. He was born with true knowledge, sinless moral character, and faultless integrity. He lived his life as the Man with a mission: to lead people back to Eden’s beautiful utopia and beyond. Yet, in order to do so Jesus also suffered disconnection and rejection by others, and ultimately by God the Father when he took sinful man’s place and hung upon the cross judged by fellow man and by God.

Jesus fulfilled everything that Adam failed. Therefore, Jesus completed what all men fail to do. But then Jesus traded places with man, suffering the demise that awaits all infected and defective creatures: the hellish, painful experience of all that is wicked and evil, such as suffering, pain, ultimate loneliness, total rejection, a cruel death, and a deafening, dark blackness.

Thankfully, while this was his destiny it was not his end. God’s acceptance of Jesus’ mission to lead his people in the great exodus out of the wilderness of sin and evil, and because of his own power, Jesus passed right through that tar pit of death’s underworld to the other side of life (Rom. 5). He took with him man’s sin and came through alive and with a new body (1 Cor. 15).

Jesus did this in order to rectify man’s ignorance, resolve his guilt, reverse the effects of sin, and reconnect with God. How is this relevant for you? It is relevant because through his perfect work in life and his sacrificial death upon the cross Jesus redeems and restores your knowledge, holiness, and righteous state (Eph. 4:24; Col 3:10). The process of restoring man began at the cross, and it begins with each man when God’s Spirit brings him to the place of that cross by faith. In other words, Jesus Christ remakes and re-forms man, bringing him back to the place of what is truly normal. He makes man real again.

 

You – A New Man!

When you, or any man, trust in the God-Man Jesus Christ, and rest in his work and accomplished mission, a transformation takes place (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:8-10). First, Jesus Christ reconnects your disconnected relationship with God. His finished work is the guarantee that you will also pass through hell on earth and come out alive and well.

Jesus did incredible things for you. By the Laws of Heaven he earned the right to pay for your release from the wilderness, obtained a declaration of pardon from God, acquired the certificate of passage, and then he himself became the guarantee that you will be purified, restored to heaven-made normalcy, completely acceptable to God. If that were not enough, his good works were so perfect that he also procured an eternal line of works-credit for you (Rom. 4:23-24; Rom. 5)!

He brought all of this to God the Father on your behalf. You were the long lost and rebellious son who declared emancipation from God. Yet, completely satisfied with Jesus’ accomplished mission and very happy to see you restored, God the Father receives you and legally adopts you. More than that, to see that you would be of the same bloodline, so to speak, he sends his Spirit to breath new life into your soul. Your new, reborn spiritual life connects you as his child (Jn. 1:12; Jn. 3:5-8).

God then pours his Spirit into you in order to empower you with a special faith that will take you on the journey through the wilderness-hell back to Eden’s heaven (Rom. 8). The Spirit brings God’s ancient writings to life for you so that your mind understands the thoughts of God (1 Cor. 3), your heart desires the things of God, and your will seeks to do the mission of God. Those mysterious writings become the very food that nourishes, strengthens and empowers you in the journey.

While Jesus made the journey through wilderness-hell without becoming contaminated with sin, darkness and evil, you go through the journey for a different reason. He cleared the way, but the moment you are justified, adopted, reborn, and exercise that special faith, the journey becomes for you a lengthy decontamination process. At the same time it is a rejuvenation process. In fact, your identity is now as a new man in Christ, being changed from the abnormal into the normal, real man.  Along the way you make new connections. Especially important are making connections with those who have also been transformed.

Like a child, you begin to comprehend reality and God-defined normalcy. You can think God’s thoughts about life and absorb truth. But to gain more insight and true knowledge you have to remove ignorance and foolish thinking. This is a purposeful and deliberate progression. It should be a daily progression. This is part of what it means to be a real man.

Since God has forgiven and pardoned you, you are no longer guilty. Yet because you have not yet passed into heaven’s purity, you still wrestle with the remaining vestiges of sin. On the one hand life in Jesus Christ means putting on more and more the quality of Christ’s character (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; 1 Tim. 3). Life for one who trusts in Jesus also means battling that old sin, confessing that sin, and putting off that sin. As Colossians 3:5-8 tells us about the residue of sin in our lives we are to kill it, cast it, and quit it! The challenge is a tough one that confronts you, the real man, every day. Like a soldier your order from God is to put off the sin and put on the pure life. Like an athlete you vigorously train yourself in holiness. Like a faithful servant whose allegiance is to the Emperor, his will is your command. What’s more, you are empowered to carry out his will!

With newfound empowerment you also have the executive ability to do what is right – to live righteously. With this power you can fulfill God’s mission for your life. He does not have some mere job for you – he has a calling. Your task is to discover this vocation and execute it in the service of God for the greater good of others. Your task also includes being a responsible steward for the glorification of God’s creation. Everything you do then ought to reflect God’s awesome beauty and radiate his wonderful light.

The sphere in which you live is like a decontamination chamber, cleansing you more and more of your sin. As you shed the old layers and clear out that old cancer, you also gain new health and life so as to become “normal” like Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be a real man. A real man in Christ is active, not passive; he is proactive, not unengaged; he is growing, not shriveling. The Christ-follower is intentional in his call, function, and roles. Jesus, the God-Man has made a difference in this new man’s life, and consequently he makes a difference in life.

As a believing follower of Jesus, like it or not this is your journey and manifest destiny. You are not westward bound, but upward bound. Your God-given motto is “excelsior” for you are on the challenging path that is forward and upward to the high calling in Christ. You stay the course as you trek across the wilderness with patient endurance because in the end you will be transfigured into a heavenly being like Jesus was (2 Cor. 3:18). You will be the perfectly complete and real man.

 

What’s a Real Man to Do?

Okay man, I’m not going to say to you “Don’t wear plaid,” or “Eat quiche.”  However, allow me to nudge you to go forward and upward into real man-ness.

First, if you have not come to faith in Jesus the perfectly real Man, do so now. If you are unsure about what that means or how to have that kind of transformational faith then feel free to contact me or Pastor Ryan or Pastor Dan or one of the elders or any other man who knows what this excelsior journey in Christ is all about.

Second, find a man who is intentional about the transformation from our society’s normal to God’s new normal. Develop a mutual mano a mano friendship to spot one another in the developmental exercise of real manliness.

Third, see about getting involved in one of the various men’s groups. Especially, the ones that meet for breakfast where they eat quiche, or at least omelets.  Maybe even eat wearing plaid?

Here’s to being a real man!

Don Owsley

Be a Real Man!2014-10-17T00:00:00-06:00

10 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

Ten ways to encourage your pastor?  Say what?

In the book, Spurgeon on Leadership, Larry J. Michael writes,

Many Christian leaders become discouraged. The work doesn’t go as one imagines, the church doesn’t grow as one desires, lay leaders won’t cooperate with one’s leadership, people are excessively critical, or finances are down. The list goes on and on. Someone said that discouragement is the occupational hazard of the ministry, and Spurgeon was no exception to this rule. As successful as he was, he still experienced discouragement, and, in his case, it often deteriorated into depression. He became so depressed at times that he could barely function. In his lecture on “The Minister’s Fainting Fits,” Spurgeon opened with these words: “As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us….The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.”

Did you know that pastors share something in common with others who work in other people-serving positions, such as nurses, doctors, counselors, social workers, etc.? They share a high rate of distress and discouragement, and oddly enough tend towards more frequent and serious bouts of depression and higher incidences of suicide. You wouldn’t think that would be the case, but it is.

This is nothing new. Even pastors in ages gone by struggled with discouragement and depression. Consider some of what these men went through:

John Calvin – Calvin received so much opposition in his first ministry at Geneva that the year before his expulsion from Geneva he went through great discouragement and depression. Writing about this year in his life he said “Were I to tell you only the littlest things of the misfortune – what am I saying – of the adversity which virtually crushed us during the course of one year, you would hardly believe me. I am convinced that not a day passed in which I did not long for death ten times…”

Andrew Bonar – Writing to his close friend McCheyne said, “I was very melancholy, I may say, on Saturday evening. The old scenes reminded me of my ministry, and this was accompanied with such regret for past failures.” Andrew Bonar also wrote, “My ministry has appeared to me to be wanting in so many ways that I can only say of it, indescribably inadequate.”

Charles Spurgeon – At the zenith of his ministry, Spurgeon said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”

Campbell Morgan – At the height of his ministry, Morgan astounded his congregation by telling them that he was a failure. As he thought over his ministry, he said, “During these ten years, I have known more of vision fading into mirages, or purposes failing of fulfillment, of things of strength crumbling away in weakness than ever in my life.”

(Original source for this could not be found. Sorry.)

These are only a handful of illustrations. There were others, many others, such as Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, Arthur Pink, A. W. Tozer and Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones. Perhaps you would be surprised by how many present day pastors find themselves very discouraged and depressed (statistically, more that 70%); even popular and famous Christian ministers.

The point of this post is not to talk about discouragement or ways to discourage those whose main work is to serve as Christ’s undershepherds, faithfully ministering the Word and work of Jesus to you. If you really want to know how to discourage your pastor(s) check out an old article I wrote  101 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor. Instead, this post is to provide at least ten ways you can encourage our own pastors, and to provoke you to find other creative ways to do this.

 

Ten Ways to Encourage the Pastor:

1. Live with him in the love of Christ, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and might and loving the pastor as you love yourself.

(Matthew 22:37-39)

 

2. Love him in the Lord.

(See the previous blog post, How to Love Our Pastor).

 

3. Pray for him all the time.

 

4. Let him rest.

Give him opportunities for personal and familial rest. Be proactive to make sure he is getting spiritual, emotional, mental and physical rejuvenation. Encourage him to take off for times of prayer, meditation and reflection. Leave him alone during his day or days off, unless of course, it is an emergency. Don’t rely on him to solve all your problems, so don’t keep on going to him relentlessly. Maybe even raise some funds and send him and his family on a cruise or a study leave.

Craig Brian Larson wrote,

“Someone has said, ‘Fatigue makes cowards of us all.’ Let me rephrase that in more general terms: Physical exhaustion alters my emotional state. What I could handle when fresh I no longer feel up to. Difficulties that I first faced like a problem-solver full of faith now cause me to buckle at the knees. The challenges that once energized me now terrify me. While the presenting symptom on such occasions is emotional – depression and weakness – the real problem is physical: low energy” (Staying Power; pp. 55-56).

Jane Rubietta in her How to Keep the Pastor You Love, states,

One day a week scarcely suffices for clergy or anyone to recharge emotionally, physically and spiritually; keep one’s home in order and in repair; and have quality and quantity family time. Ministers do not move from glory to glory but from crisis to crisis. Even if they took their one allotted day off, it is not enough to keep them from becoming one of those untimely funerals  (p. 54).

 

5. Honor, appreciate and esteem the pastor.

The Bible gives a rather rigorous list of requirements the pastor is to do and spells out specifically the roles the pastor is to play in the local church.  Yet, the Bible is equally clear about what your responsibility is in relationship to the pastor(s) and elders (Phil. 2:29; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13 cp. Acts 28:9-10, 2 Cor. 7:15).

One is to honor  the minister. That means to place a high value, price, or put in a place of great respect. It is giving glory to one deserving of respect, attention and obedience.  God directs Christians to honor the local church pastor(s) and elders (1 Tim. 5:17).

A second way is to show appreciation. To appreciate means to give deserved recognition for the position he has and the work that he does. To appreciate is to respect and have positive regard for.  The New King James uses the word, recognize in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, but it means the same.  One example can be found in the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth regarding Timothy, when he said, Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one despise him (1 Cor. 16:10-11).

The third way is to esteem the pastor (1 Thess. 5:13).   To esteem is “to think highly of him; to have great regard; to consider valuable, very precious, or distinguished.”

Why should you esteem the elders or pastor?

                        (1)       Because of their work, which is the effective ministry of God’s Word.

(2)       Because of their office, because they rule over you in the Lord (1 Cor. 16:16).

(3)       Because they admonish you (Heb. 13:7).

How should you/we Christians esteem their elders or pastor?

                        (1)      Very highly and in love (1 Thess. 5:13 cp. 1 Cor. 7:15)!

(2)       By showing respect for their needs (Acts 28:9-10).

       (3)       And, here’s a odd one to consider: by treating their position with fear and trembling                                                 (Acts 17; Matt. 16; Matt. 18; 2 Cor. 7:15).

 

6. Do everything you can to pump life into his soul.

Build him up, encourage him, and communicate to him in the many ways there are just how much his service means to you. Lift him up, inspire him, and bless him in Christ. You will reap the residual effects for it. Lift him and his family up to the Lord in frequent prayer. Show love and kindness. Be a conduit of grace, hope and love to build up your pastor.

Greenfield in The Wounded Minister, wrote, A minister’s peace of mind is very important to the quality of his productivity in ministry. It is very difficult to be loving, gentle, and kind toward people when a small group of nitpickers are constantly at him about trivial matters that have little to do with the overall purpose of the church. It is even more difficult to be the gentle pastor, meek and mild, when the accusations leveled at him are contrived and totally false (p. 104).

 

7. Be loyal to him in Christ

Trust him when he is trustworthy. Treat him for who he is and for the office he holds.

 

8. Give to him as he gives to you.

Give, not merely monetary support, but give service to him and his family. Be imaginative and think of ways you can serve your pastor: give him genuine and valuable feedback; give him moral support; give him time and prayer. Above all give him love and affection!

 

9. Speak the truth in love.

Do all you can to safeguard his name and reputation, but more than that, build up his name so that it becomes a name of honor. Certainly, the pastor must maintain his own reputation and integrity in Christ. This is not an admonition for you to pretend he is honorable if he has clearly sinned and defamed the name of the Lord. However, if he has a character beyond reproach, then uphold it, maintain it, and promote it.

 

10. Don’t covet to have your pastor be just like a pastor you admire or idolize.

He’s the pastor God has placed in the church and in your life at this time. God is the one who has given the pastor the personal talents, the spiritual gifts, and the call to the church; not the former pastor, the famous pastor, or any other admirable person. It is quite okay to enjoy and celebrate the qualities of those men while at the same time celebrating and enjoying your current minister.

 

These are ten, simple and practical suggestions for encouraging your pastor(s). Nice to know, eh? Now, let me encourage, in fact urge you to do two things:

First, find tangible ways to put these suggestions into practice.

Second, talk with two or more other people in the church and conspire to do at least one encouraging thing together for the pastor(s). Preferably, it would be good to spread out these blessings over the course of a year.

 

For the glory of our King;

Don

10 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor2014-10-10T00:00:00-06:00

How to Love Our Pastor (let me count the ways)

In keeping with Pastor Appreciation Month, here is a self-check to see how and in what ways you are showing appreciation and affection for the pastor(s) whom God has given you and the church. This is an application of 1 Corinthians 13, and is taken from Appendix S of the book, The Perfect Pastor?
It certainly challenges me in some areas and encourages in other ways. Enjoy, and then apply!
Don

________

All of these qualities of love find their source and perfect expression in God through Jesus Christ. If I am truly in Christ, I should express these loving qualities more and more, even toward my pastor. Fill in the blank spaces with your pastor’s name.

1. Does my communication with ____________________ come from a heart of love or am I just an irritating noise maker (1 Cor. 13:1)?

2. Do I use the gifts God has given me to lovingly serve ____________________ (1 Cor. 13:2)?

3. Do I love ____________________ sacrificially? In what specific ways do I do so (1 Cor. 13:3)?

4. Am I patient with ____________________? In other words, do I show an enduring restraint with him even when I have a right to act? Do I restrain my words and actions when wronged or provoked when I have a right to act, unless there is a particular sin I need to address through gentle rebuke (Matt. 18:15-22; Gal. 6:1).

5. Am I kind toward ____________________? Kindness proceeds from a tender heart that contributes to his good will and happiness (1 Cor. 13:4).

6. I am not envious of ____________________. I do not feel an uneasiness with the excellence, reputation, or happiness he enjoys. I have no desire to depreciate him (1 Cor. 13:4).

7. I do not brag about myself to ____________________. This means that I do not have an anxious display of myself for the purpose of elevating my own life, especially at the expense of putting him down. I do not campaign for the center of attention (1 Cor. 13:4).

8. I am not arrogant, puffed up or swollen with a proud vanity around him (1 Cor. 13:4).

9. I am considerate and not rude with ____________________. I do not act unbecomingly or unseemly toward him, nor unnecessarily embarrass him (1 Cor. 13:5).

10. I seek ____________________’s greatest good and benefit (1 Cor. 13:5).

11. I am not easily provoked or angered by ____________________. I do not have a trigger temper that stems from bitterness (1 Cor. 13:5).

12. I do not keep a record of the wrongs suffered by ____________________ from which to make a plan for retaliation. Especially since Jesus Christ took the registry of my sins and my pastor’s sins and paid for them with his own sacrificial life and death (1 Cor. 13:5).

13. I do not rejoice in unrighteousness or evil done by or done to ___________________. I do not find pleasure in his demise, or in rumors about his sin, but instead I seek out the truth (1 Cor. 13:6).

14. I am able to bear all things with ____________________. That means I protect his reputation, welfare or life (1 Cor. 13:7).

15. I put the best construction regarding ____________________ and see things about him from a good and positive light, unless there is sufficient evidence to believe otherwise (1 Cor. 13:7).

16. I have a positive and sure expectation that through Jesus Christ God will work all things together for ____________________’s good. I actively promote the hope of Christ with my pastor (1 Cor. 13:7).

17. My love endures and perseveres. Therefore, I find ways to encourage my pastor to persevere in his life, walk and service in Christ (1 Cor. 13:7).

How to Love Our Pastor (let me count the ways)2014-10-05T00:00:00-06:00

Say Yes to SPAM!

Did you know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month?

Some time in the not so distant past, someone came up with the idea of a pastor’s appreciation month (P.A.M.). Seems to me it was something Focus on the Family ministry started? In any case, October became the designated month. It’s a good idea. Yet it’s sad that we would have to come up with such specific event and time in order for some churches to do so. However, I’d rather have P.A.M. than not.

Some churches don’t observe P.A.M. Other churches hate P.A.M. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask the leadership of a few of these churches why that is. Their reasons vary. Here’s a short list of what they’ve said:

  • “The pastor knows he’s appreciated.”  (Oh? Does he now? Have you asked? Has it been obvious you are  showing appreciation for him?)
  • “We show appreciation throughout the year.”  (Well, that’s fantastic!).
  • “We made a big deal when he first arrived.”   (That reminds me of the husband who explained why he never tells his wife he loved her was because he had told her on their wedding day, and he would let her know if there was any change).
  • “We don’t go for anniversaries like that.”   (Implying it’s too unspiritual or unbiblical. I’ll wager a dollar they celebrate birthdays).
  • “It would only spoil the pastor. We don’t want to contribute to his pride.”   (That’s old-school thinking. You know – keep the pastor humble and poor. But that’s such a ginormous pile of fufu! Thank God the Lord doesn’t treat us that way).
  • “The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to do that.”    (Uhhh…say what?)
  • “Our pastor is not worth appreciating.”     (Maybe that is the case. If he is not worthy of honor, then what is he doing in your church? If it’s a matter of your personal dislike then someone needs a major attitude adjustment).

P.A.M. was created out of an apparent need. Contrary to some opinions, pastors are people too. They need “attaboys” and “thank-yous,” and “we love yous,” just like other people do. It’s an uplift. It contributes to a sense of satisfaction and joy. And, it’s biblical! Of course the Bible doesn’t have an explicit chapter or verse about appreciating your pastor. There isn’t the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt appreciate your pastor.”  But there are commands to love others, and to respect, honor, and highly esteem your elder(s). In fact, Hebrews 13:17 tells us that we should bring joy to our pastor and elders, and tells us how we can make our pastor’s work a joy. It says the pastor(s) should be enjoying the ministry and not groaning because of it – – for our benefit!

The Apostle Paul of the New Testament is such a great example of how a church leader shows appreciation for the church he serves. Paul not only showed them by giving his all, and sacrificing his life for them, he came right out and told them. He sent them love letters. Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians are reservoirs of the love of Christ that cascades down through Paul and into the hearts of men, women, boys and girls. Paul thanked them for their demonstrations of love and appreciation for him. It’s a rather lengthy catalog when you read through those letters. He was so very thankful for how they provided for him, prayed for him, healed his wounds, gave him hospitality, listened to him, obeyed him, communicated their affection for him, supported others when he asked them to, treated him with respect, visited him when he was jailed, suffered with him when abused and persecuted, rescued him, and more.

Notice something here: they didn’t do these loving things only during a special month. They practiced pastor appreciation moments. Or, you could say, they practiced a good kind of S.P.A.M (Spontaneous Pastor Appreciation Moments)! By the way and no offense intended, but I am not one who likes Spam, whether of the email type or the food type (if indeed it really is food?)

While serving as a pastor in a church back in California, the precious folks surprised me on the first October my family and I were with them with a special P.A.M. event. But that was more like the sweet topping on the proverbial pie.  Those dear men and women were SPAMmers (of the good kind). One elder would often tell me how much he appreciated what I was doing. A middle-aged lady sent me a thank you card for my service. A teenager sent me a birthday card. From time to time another elder prayed out loud and praised God for my family and me. The music leader often asked how things were going or how I was doing, and would give me a big hug now and then. Deacons told me they were grateful I was at the church. One man signed his short info emails with “Love, _____”!  In his north Jersey accent, an elderly man often told me that how glad he was that I was his pastor. Women expressed thanks for how I was with their children. People interacted with the sermons. Children of all ages would converse with me or hug my neck when I stooped down or my knees when I didn’t. Some would even give a kiss or two. Couples or families had us over for supper. And on it went. Bring tears to my eyes just thinking about them. With Paul I will forever say, “I thank God in my remembrance of you!” (Phil 1:3-4).

I commend them for being an example of biblical love. They knew how to appreciate their pastor. I wish I could package such loving appreciation and send it off to churches where pastors need the same. These dear people don’t show appreciation merely because it’s a P.A.M. thing or because they have this duty-bound compulsion to do so. They didn’t stop after their first display of appreciation when my family and I arrived, showering us with baskets of essentials, food, and treasures. The obvious displays of genuine affection continued until, sadly, we had to move. (More tears to my eyes).

You know what else? They were not spoiling me. In fact, if anything their S.P.A.M. was humbling! Over the years I’ve been around too many who thought it was their God-ordained mission to humble me. What they did wasn’t humbling. It was humiliating, unkind, unloving, unbiblical and un-anything-good. The beloved at Cornerstone Community practiced methods of appreciation that were so much like Jesus: abundant, encouraging, gracious, merciful, gentle, and kind. I did not deserve any of it, but like Christ they showed mercy and grace any way. And that, my friends, was humbling.

Having served as a pastor for eighteen years in various churches, you can take it from me that people demonstrating spontaneous moments of appreciation was enriching, encouraging, refreshing, and boosts needed to continue the work.

I am happy to share with you how much I appreciate Pastor Ryan and Pastor Dan, and as I come to know the elders at South my deep appreciation goes out to them as well. It does not stop there as there is so much to be thankful for having such men as Aaron who ministers through music and more, and Chris who ministers to our youth. South is truly blessed and I am truly blessed by the ministry services of Eva, Janet and Nate!

No doubt many of you are SPAMmers too! Please keep it up. All year long! Our ministers not only need and desire the encouragement, but giving thanks for them and showing appreciation also blesses you and the rest of the church.

If you’re involved in South or reading this and are in another local church, take a cue from Scripture (Phil. 2:29; 1 Thess. 5:13; 1 Tim. 5:17; Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17; 3 John 1:8) and from the example of the people at Cornerstone Community in Cerritos, California. Make a conscious effort at showing spontaneous moments of appreciation for your pastors. And if the church does not have a special anniversary to formally appreciate your pastors, then start one. It does not have to be October. It could be on the month of your pastor’s arrival or birthday. It will make a big difference in his life, and more than that, you and your church will reap the residual blessings!

Here’s to S.P.A.M (the good kind)!

Don

Say Yes to SPAM!2014-10-01T00:00:00-06:00

Grace to Stand Firm, Grace to Grow

You might wish to get this book by Carol J. Ruvolo, if you want dig more deeply into God’s grace for the Christian life. Grace to Stand Firm, Grace to Grow  is an excellent guide that can enrich your knowledge and heart about the beauties of Christ’s grace.

Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church’s former pastor, Dr. James M. Boice (who has since gone to be with the Lord), endorsed this book as, “Deeply God-centered, theologically profound, and very, very practical.”  Joni Eareckson Tada claims, “Carol Ruvolo’s studies on 1-2 Peter may read easy, but they run deep. If you desire to raise your level of trust and commitment in Christ, you will find these studies to be theologically sound, powerful and practical.”

This book is not a novel, though the lessons from Peter’s encounter with Jesus found in the Gospel novels are fleshed out here. This book is not a mystery, yet it opens up for us the mystery of Christ and his work in our lives. This book is not a romance, however, through it one comes to love more deeply the Savior who first loved us. This book is a study of 1 Peter and 2 Peter; a study that goes deep and wide. It was crafted to be used as a personal guide or by groups.  As one statement in the introduction reflects,

“Always remember that effective Bible study equips you to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. You glorify God when you live in such a way that those around you can look at you and see an accurate reflection of God’s character and nature. You enjoy God when you are fully satisfied in His providential ordering of the circumstances in your life. When your life glorifies God and your joy is rooted in His providence, your impact on our fallen world will be tremendous.”

 

Here is an overview of the contents:

Part 1 Grace to Stand Firm

Lesson 1  The Hope of Salvation

Lesson 2  The Joy of Divine Testing

Lesson 3  The Shift from Doctrine to Practice

Lesson 4  The Attractiveness of God’s People

Lesson 5  The Appeal of Free Submission

Lesson 6  The Appeal of Free Submission (2)

Lesson 7  The Power of a Humble Witness

Lesson 8  The Cure for Short-Timer Syndrome

Lesson 9  The Team Concept of Humble Servants

Part 2  Grace to Grow

Lesson 10 The Key Weapon in the War on God’s Word

Lesson 11 The Reminder of Scripture’s Authority

Lesson 12 The Danger of Twisted Teaching

Lesson 13 The Certainty of God’s Promises

 

Grace to Stand Firm, Grace to Grow (ISBN: 98-0-87552-634-8) was first published in 2003.  You can order this through most any good book retailers.  And no, I do not get any advertising royalties from this endorsement :-)

 

 

 

 

 

Grace to Stand Firm, Grace to Grow2014-09-30T00:00:00-06:00

God’s Grace is Enough

God’s Grace is the Nature of Your Christian Life – Part 2

In a previous post we saw that there is no problem with God’s grace as far as being rescued from the guilt, shame and condemnation of sin. Neither is there a problem with God’s grace when it comes to living holy and righteous lives as Christians. The Bible teaches us that approaching God is by grace, knowing God is by grace, and also living for God is by grace. In short, God’s grace is the nature of your Christian life. Let’s see how…

God’s grace comes to believers through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection

God extends to you his mercy and grace because of Jesus Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection (Eph. 2:4-10). The Bible tells us that God “saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). Abundant and everlasting life with God is not earned, but freely given (Titus 3:5). All you need is to believe this is true.

Read these verses to learn how grace comes to you:  Isa. 53:1-12; Matthew 1:21; 18:11; 20:28; 26:28; Luke 19:10; John 6:37-40; 6:63-65; 10:14-16; 27-29; 17:1-2; 6-9; 24; Acts 9:1-16; 10:39-42; Rom. 9:11; 19-24; 11:1-23; Eph. 2:10; I Pet. 2:9-10.

Grace continues for believers in Christ

God’s grace not only made a way for you to be reunited to him through Jesus Christ, his grace also keeps and leads you through this life into eternity. Look at what Ephesians 1:4-6 says: “Just as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, in order that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the kind intention of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

What’s even more awesome is that the Lord, whose grace began a good work in you, will, by grace, bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

Grace is the essence of your Christian life!

1. Through humility you can receive more grace for life (1 Pet. 5:5).

2. The means for you to live Christian life is by grace (2 Thess. 1:12)

Notice in Acts 13:43 how Paul and Barnabas pressed upon Jews and Gentiles who had come to faith in Jesus to keep on living in the grace of God. It is no different today for the believer. God’s Word of grace is able to build you up in the faith (Acts 20:32). Baptism is a means of grace to put off your old sinful habits and put on Christ (Rom. 6:1-14). The Lord has also given you his Supper in order to commune with Jesus, even spiritually “feeding” on him for nourishment and sustenance (Matt. 26:26-28; Lk 22:17-20; Jn. 6:35-58; 1 Cor. 10:16-21; 1 Cor. 11:17-34). Prayer is yet another gracious means to live the Christian life.

3. God gives you power to live the Christian life, and that is by grace (Gal. 2:20-21).

As one who follows Jesus, you are urged to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). We are strengthened with all power by God’s might, not ours (Col. 1:11-12). Power for Christian living comes from the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, not by our works of Law or personal ability.

As a steward of God’s grace (Eph. 3:2), Paul was able to help lay the foundation for Christ’s Church by the power of God’s grace (1 Cor. 3:10). Who he was and what he was able to do was through the grace of God in him (1 Cor. 15:10). Timothy, and by inference, all ministers in Christ are to find strength in Christ’s grace (2 Tim. 2:1).

4. Your sufficiency in the Christian life is through grace (2 Cor. 9:8).

His grace is sufficient for all your needs (Phil 4:19), for all your strength (2 Cor. 12:9), and for the endurance required to live for Christ (Heb. 13:9; 1 Tim. 1:12-14).

5. Your suffering in the Christian life comes with grace (Heb. 4:16).

Look at these verses: Rom. 8:26-28; 1 Tim. 2:1-6; Heb. 13:9; 1 Pet. 1:13; 5:10.

6. The only way to persevere in the Christian life is through God’s grace (Phil. 4:13)

Want to see how God’s grace is what gives you endurance?  See: Matt. 1:21; 7:21-23; John 6:32-39; 8:30-32; 10:27-29; 15:1-9; 17:1-2; 11; Rom.8:35-39; 11:29; II Cor. 1:20-23; Eph. 1:13; 4:30; Phil. 1:3-6; II Tim. 1:12; 2:19; 4:18; Heb. 5:5-9; I Pet. 1:1-5; 18ff; I John 2:17, 25-27; Jude 1; and Jude 24.

 

This study only touches the surface of how it is we are made Christians and how we continue to live as Christians – it is all by the grace of God. The indescribable grace of God in Jesus Christ is the very sphere in which live and is the central resource by which follow Jesus. God’s grace is enough!

What about the Law and doing good works? Good question, but hold that thought until the next time.

By grace;

Don

God’s Grace is Enough2014-09-29T00:00:00-06:00
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