not in category mode for script check
by Janet Dance
Life is good right now but my heart still aches for a certain prayer request. It is very personal to me and it definitely lines up with God’s will. I pray daily but some days my prayers sound more like this, “WHY? No really, WHY? This seems so obvious, WHY?”
Reading through Nehemiah recently, I noticed his plea. In the last portion of the book Nehemiah runs through a list of all he has done for God and then states, “Remember me, my God, with favor.” (Neh 13:31b)
I can relate. I have faithfully served Him for over 40 years. I not only have attempted to follow His teachings but have served diligently to make His name known and praised. So yeah, He should remember me when he is passing out prayer answers, right? I’m not trying to be cocky, it just makes logical sense. So my prayer changes to, “I have done ____________________ and remember me, my God.”
Why should God answer my prayer?
Fast forward a few weeks to my reading in Luke. Jesus is teaching the disciples in parables. A very crude summary of the one I read goes like this:
“When your slave comes in from a long day in the field, do you thank and serve him? No! You still expect him to fix you dinner before he can eat and rest. “In the same way, when you have done all you were commanded, you should say, we are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10)
When my son was a teenager and half listening to me, he would sometimes say, “Wait, what?” In our home we started using the phrase, “Wait, what? moments.”
My “Wait, what?” moment was when I realized that my works didn’t entitle me to anything. That sort of flies against the “remember me” theory I had been clinging to. So I went back to Nehemiah and found a man who was not feeling entitled, but was desperately wanting to please the Lord. Sort of like a sweet child saying, “Watch me Daddy.”
Because He is!
There’s a big difference between, “Watch me Daddy” and “I have slaved for you in the field so you should serve me now.”
Back in the early years of our marriage and ministry, Mark and I met with his late uncle Dr. Guy Newman, who was a highly respected man in the ministry. I remember him saying to Mark, “Don’t ever expect any privileges because you are in the ministry… but when you get them, don’t ever forget to say thank you.”
I believe there is a God honoring balance of attitude between “… whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matthew 21:22), and what I was feeling.
The God of the universe does not owe me a thing! He does, however, love me immeasurably and has a purpose and end to my story that I cannot see.
So humbly and trustingly, I continue to pray.
Photo: Sergey Svenchnikov
I have noticed a few annoying patterns amongst our tribe that just need to stop...immediately.
I’m curious if you recognize these patterns in other pastors or yourself. Also, I would love to hear your opinion on typical pastoral patterns of behavior that need to stop.
Stop telling people how hard you work
Yeah, we already know. Saying it just makes you look insecure.
People are onto us. We need shock-collars for this one.
Stop spending more than you earn
Ask any banker who their worst credit risks are and pastors are always on their list (doctors and plumbers too). Living within our means is not rocket science, and there have never been more stewardship tools in history than today.
Stop worrying and praying about the same things
Prayer is helpful and worry is unhelpful (and sinful), so do one or the other, but stop trying to do both at the same time.
#budget #staff #attendance #kids #marriage
Stop trying to remember everything
The bad news is that your memory stinks. You are a human, not a computer, so stop trusting your memory. The more balls you drop, the less credibility you have.
The good news is that you have a computer at your fingertips right now. Let people see you write down appointments, tasks, and prayer requests.
Stop holding onto grudges
Unforgiveness is unforgivable. Stop holding your pain in and let it go before it destroys you and your ministry.
Stop doing other people's ministries
If we are not equipping people for ministry, we are robbing them of it. Pastors waste a lot of kingdom time outside of their calling and gifts.
Stop being late
Whether you are running late to a meeting at church, being late for supper at home, or finishing your sermon late, you are being disrespectful. You can only use the God-card so many times on this one, friends.
Stop saying “yes” to everybody
If everyone is a VIP to you, then no one is. Stewardship of your time and money are similar in that both are limited and both will either be budgeted or wasted. My VIPs are Jesus, Janet, kids/parents, friends, church, unchurched, and self (see Great Commandment).
Stop beating yourself up about the rest of this list
I've done all these stupid things and more many times. I won't stop trying to stop them until my funeral. We are all pastoring imperfectly and need to save some of the amazing grace we preach about for ourselves.
Photo: Kane Reinholdsten.
Many of you are like me, overdue for a break. I have an encouraging word for you that I came across in my devotional reading: refresh. It is a Greek compound word that means “to breath again." It can also mean to recover, take the air, cool off, or revive.
The holidays are a rare opportunity for pastors and other leaders to catch our breath by hitting the refresh button on our souls. I want to share three things that have worked for me over the Christmas/New Years holiday stretch.
Seek Out People Who Refresh You
We rejoiced over the joy Titus had, because his spirit was refreshed by all of you. 2 Corinthians 7:13
Many pastors and leaders are emotionally worn out and dried up from pouring into other people all of the time. That doesn’t mean you are selfish or weak, it just means you are human.
Although you obviously can’t avoid all of the needy people in your family and church over the holidays, you can intentionally seek out those who refresh you. Apparently the Apostle Paul had several people who refreshed him along the way:
I am pleased to have Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus present, because these men have made up for your absence. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. 1 Corinthians 16:17-18
Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea (drainers)... and that, by God's will, I may come to you with joy and be refreshed together with you. Romans 15:31-32
Prioritize Your Closest Friends & Family
My side of the family is celebrating Christmas in my hometown of Tyler, Texas this weekend. Much food, laughter and golf is anticipated. Additionally, I have invited a handful of friends I grew up with to eat dinner together. We are a tight group that grew up in the same church, went to college together and eventually all served in full time ministry around the country. Some I have not seen in years.
Lots of laughs over Tex-Mex food is what a Christmas refresh looks like for me.
May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me. 2 Timothy 1:16-17
Notice the intentionality of Onesiphorus to diligently search for Paul in Rome. Friendships require work, but they are worth the effort.
For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother. Philemon 1:4-7
Catch Up On Your Rest, Not Your Work
In my opinion, pastoring is one of the hardest job on the planet. Although I don’t pastor a church anymore, I pastor pastors and am having the time of my life, but I am spent.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. Exodus 31:17
This Hebrew word (Niphal) also means to take a breath and refresh yourself. Not that God needed to catch His breath after creating everything, but He knew we would be more likely to follow His example than His law. Since the #4 commandment is to stop (sabbath = stop), I will take this holiday break to throw on the ministry brakes.
After hosting fifteen pastor date nights and roundtables, and speaking at an additional fifteen other events this year - Janet and I are road weary. Additionally, I have written more this year than any time in my life. I have one solo book project that is almost complete, finished two collaborate book projects, and am currently writing/shooting 35 video deacon training videos. I also write lots of blog posts like this one. Writing is fun and fulfilling, but I need a break. After writing all day today, I will refresh my heart, soul, mind and body for a couple of weeks by stepping away from my computer.
You don’t have to be tired of ministry to be tired from ministry. I am not the only one to need a refresh am I? I hope you find (no make) the time in the next couple of weeks to catch your breath and catch up with those friends and family who refresh you. I would love to hear what refreshes you.
Ronnie Floyd guest post today has some mentoring gold that I know pastors and church leaders will benefit from:
Dear Fellow Ministers,
In recent weeks, I have felt the need to write a special letter to you. Therefore, from my heart to your heart, I share these things with you. May they bring encouragement and remind us we are all in this ministry life together.
First, put Jesus first in your day.
Start your day early with God and if early is not your deal, at least start your day with God first. Yes, first things first. If we do not begin our day with Jesus, then we forfeit the privilege to lead His people. Please begin your day with God; otherwise, defeat in life and ministry will become normal for you. Minister of the gospel, remember this: Deepen your walk and God will expand your influence.
Second, renew your belief in the power of God.
The same God that saves you by grace through being born again by His supernatural power is the same God alive today in your ministry and life. Embrace the power of God! He can do anything, any time, anywhere, with anyone. He can do this with you and through your church. Refuse to dissect what He can and cannot do. Receive what He is able to do with you and through you. Begin to teach and preach about the power of God to your church. They need to begin to believe again.
Third, bring prayer back into the worship services of your church.
Get beyond the “Bless me” prayers and into calling out to the God of Heaven to manifest His presence to the people of God. Weekly, call out to God before your people. Pray for the sick. Pray for the hurting. Your entire church needs to hear you pray with both confidence and conviction. At times, move your people to pray together in groups around the room. At other times, call them to their knees in humility. Pray for revival to come to the people of God and for the next Great Awakening to occur in America. Prayer always precedes great works of God.
Fourth, prioritize evangelism in the life of your church.
Refuse to succumb to persuasions and practices that do not aggressively reach others for Christ. Celebrate the reaching of the lost and the baptizing of new followers of Christ. Discover places in your community where the gospel has never been shared and resolve to take the gospel there. Study the demographics of your city. Strategize how to win your city to Jesus Christ. Then, do not cease evangelizing.
Fifth, call your people to support God’s work financially.
Do not minimize it. This is not simply about the church being blessed, but it is incumbent on you as a pastor to raise up and develop people to practice financial stewardship.
Unashamedly, model and teach God’s people about giving the first ten percent of their entire income to their local church. Call them to give beyond this and challenge them to live life in the lane of generosity. Then, as a church, give sacrificially and generously to advance the gospel across the world exponentially by planting gospel churches and supporting missionaries.
Sixth, stand upon the Word of God courageously.
Our biblical Christian worldview is in constant conflict with the culture. Do not cower down to our culture nor cuddle with it. Stand strongly and courageously upon the Word of God. Always communicate God’s Word in Jesus’ love. Stand strong.
Seventh, value each person in the world. Give respect to every person in the world.
Stop letting things divide you with the people of God and with fellow ministers. We are family! Stand for the dignity of each person and for the sanctity of life. Reject racism in any form. Renounce abortion in every way. Stand for the dignity and the sanctity of human life from the womb all the way to the tomb.
Eighth, learn from criticism.
It will come. Count on it. Determine to outlive it. Refuse to become bitter toward any person who is critical of you. Do not let anyone outside of your circle of love.
Ninth, lead cross-generationally.
Do not be influential with just your generation; develop relationships with the generation before you and the generation behind you. Otherwise, your leadership will be limited and any potential legacy you may have will become short-lived. Invest in all generations. This is biblical. Give respect and love to all generations. We are family.
Tenth, be humble.
When you are humble, God will raise you up. The way up is down. When you humble yourself before God, you can more easily humble yourself before others. God is not attracted to pride, but He is to humility. He lifts up those who are humble before Him.
Fellow minister, thank you for living for Jesus and standing upon His Word. Fulfill the calling God has given to you. Please know I am with you in this battle and praying for you daily.
Now is the Time to Lead,
Ronnie W. Floyd
The loss of a very close friend this summer helped me to realize how important my friends are to me. Craig Miller’s accidental death rocked me to my core. I was hurting and in need of the same consolation I have been dishing out to others for almost thirty years.
Perhaps it was because I had never lost anyone that close, except elderly grandparents. Perhaps it was because Craig and I shared a love for Jesus, missions and hunting - all of which we talked about less than three days earlier.
Regardless, I was undone. Out of that season of grief came a few takeaways about friendship that I would like to encourage you with.
Friends will step up when you get down
One of my favorite songs is, "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" - made famous by Tracy Lawrence in 2007:
You find out who your friends are
Somebody's gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas get there fast
Never stop to think 'what's in it for me?' or 'it's way too far.'
They just show on up with that big old heart.
You find out who you're friends are
When the water's high
When the weather's not so fair
When the well runs dry
Who's gonna be there?
I was comforted by the outpouring of compassion from my friends. Their calls and texts meant more to me than they probably knew. I hope to step up for them when they inevitably walk through a dark valley.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time. Proverbs 17:17
True friendships will grow over time
Every friendship is susceptible to erosion. Friendships will grow if nourished and given attention. Craig and I became close friends in college and shared a love for music, missions and hunting.
As our families and ministries grew, so did our friendship. We fished and hunted and shared the Gospel in eight countries together in our 30 year friendship. Tanzania was going to be our next adventure together in 2018.
We must always thank God for you, brothers...since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3
Two of my favorite bowhunters were King David and Prince Jonathan (Saul’s son). I love how Jonathan gave David his bow as a sign of their friendship. Their true bond was not archery, it was unselfish love.
Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as much as himself. 1 Samuel 18:3
Thank God for the friends He gives you
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from Craig’s death was how thankful I am to have had a friend like him. I have also been thinking lot about another close friend name Jim who has walked into the cruel, seemingly endless valley of dementia. As I grieve a future without both of them on earth, I eagerly look forward to a reunion with them in heaven some day.
In the meantime, I have looked around to discover that God has surrounded me with several terrific friends with whom I am still sharing life with. I see each of them as a gift from Him.
This Thanksgiving, as you thank God for your faith and family, don’t forget to thank God for the friends He has given you as well.
Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
People are tired of politics, but I would suggest pastors address the elephant-elect in the room this Sunday anyway. It would be unwise to underestimate the impact you as a pastor can have on your members in particular, or our beloved country in general. It would be equally foolish of us to overestimate the impact of any new president.
Here are a few practical ways you can help your people move forward this Sunday.
1. Unite Your People in Prayer
It pleases Jesus when we pray for kings and all those who are in authority (1 Tim 2:2). I have been praying for President Obama for eight years, both in private and public. Jesus was clear about what we should be doing in the place Jesus said is a “house of prayer.”
This Sunday, I would you suggest you pray during worship for the Trumps, Pences, and even the Clintons. Why not go ahead and pray for the Congress and Senate while you are at it? Throughout the year, continue to pray for other public servants like the military, first responders, and local leaders.
2. Stay on Script
We always stay on script when we stick to Scripture. Social issues which are based in these timeless truths are always appropriate, but this Sunday I suggest you remind them of Romans 13. It says that our governing leaders are charged with protecting those who do good and punishing those who do evil. It also teaches us to live quiet, peaceful lives and submit to those who govern us.
If our message changes every time the presidency does, we become neo-politicians instead of pastors.
3. Remind Them Who is Really in Charge
Some elections revolve around fear. This one seemed to revolve more around frustration. Many of your members will come to church frustrated and/or fearful, regardless of who they voted for.
I’m not suggesting you become overtly cheerful Sunday, because we as evangelicals have legitimate concerns like the redefinition of marriage and life; lack of support for our military and police... just to name a few. Will all of these social problems be turned around by the newest president on the block? I hope so, but I’m not going to put all my hopes in any politician or party. I’ve pastored through five different presidencies and have yet to press the pastoral panic button on my pulpit.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
As a dual citizen of heaven and the USA, I feel honored to be an official resident of both. There is only one Throne however, and thankfully we do not get a vote on who occupies it.
If I’m in a car, I prefer to be in the driver’s seat. This is more of a confession than a boast. I want to know where I am going, what the most efficient route is, and most of all - I want to be in control.
Our driving preferences are a direct reflection of our personalities. Patient people drive patiently; obnoxious people drive...you get the point. I obviously have a driven personality. (You’re welcome)
Most of my pastor friends are driven leaders too, which is how God designed them. The original Disciples were no different, which is why they were likely frustrated when they were called to COME, then GO, and then WAIT.
Three years after Jesus called the twelve to “come and follow,” He commissioned them to “go and make disciples.” You can imagine how excited they were immediately after the resurrection, ascension and Great Commission to change the world. You can also imagine how less than excited they were about being instructed to go “wait” indefinitely for the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room.
How would you feel if you were suited up to play a baseball or football game, only to be sent back to the locker room immediately after the national anthem was sung?
While reading about Jesus’ baptism in Mark 1 this morning, I noticed that Jesus was directed to do the same thing three years earlier. His baptism was His ordination and commissioning service, which was immediately followed by a 40 day trip to the desert...with the Devil. Bummer.
John the Baptist had recently announced that Jesus was the Messiah, and now was preparing the way for Jesus by baptizing Him. God the Father then affirmed Jesus publicly by opening the heavens and sending the Holy Spirit like a dove.
Then the Spirit then drove Jesus into the wilderness.
Jesus knew when to drive and when to be driven; when to speak and when to listen. Pastors are usually better speakers than listeners, so we can benefit from His example.
And a voice came from heaven: You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You! Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted by Satan (Mark 1:11-12).
Go save the world Jesus, but wait in the wilderness for 40 days first.
Go turn the world upside down Disciples, but wait in the Upper Room first.
I have found at least four upsides to waiting before you go:
1. Waiting on God saves time, energy and embarrassment that come with running enthusiastically in the wrong direction.
2. Waiting saves the other passengers on our ministry bus from frustration.
3. Waiting acknowledges the sovereignty of God in our lives and ministries.
4. Waiting is submitting to the Holy Spirit which bears fruit of the Spirit, such as patience.
Allow yourself to be driven by the Holy Spirit, rather than by your own ambition, or the agendas of others in your life and ministry.
Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him. Psalm 37:7