“You’re fat! You don’t know how to sing! What kind of Christian are you?! Nobody likes you! You're too old!” I heard this accusing voice in my head while I was getting ready for church that morning… Interspersed between these negative statements, I heard the song, “We serve a mighty God” by Jon Gibson playing in my head as well. As I was hearing these warring voices in my head, I felt my emotions going awry. I starting praying, asking God to give me relief. I haven’t felt like this for quite a while. I started to think, “why am I feeling this way? “ Some reasons came to my mind: I hadn’t slept much the night before, approximately five hours of fitful sleep, I had been so busy that I hadn’t had much time to spend with Karyn, I had not been practicing my music for praise team that Sunday even though I knew the songs, I had been so busy that I hadn’t been praying as much as I usually do and I had narrowed my awareness of God’s activity in my life, etc... I just kept running my mind thru a litany of negative thoughts and realized that I was getting down on myself. Again.
When I got to church, I didn’t feel especially welcomed but then, again, I wasn’t feeling very welcoming. I didn’t think that praise team practice went very well, my timing was off, my voice was cracking and I felt the negative voice return, “What kind of person are you? You don’t need to be praising God, look how terrible you are doing!” I tried to joke with the other praise team members to get my mind off this torrent of negative thoughts and concentrate on praising God, praying that I would find some relief from this mental torture.
Being a Christian for over 40 years and a professional counselor for over 30 years, you would think that I wouldn’t deal with these kinds of issues, that my life is perfect, that I never deal with self-doubt, that I am in perfect control of my mental faculties at all times. Not true.
However, this isn’t the first time that I have experienced such negativity. I’ve noticed this occurs when there are two things going on simultaneously: 1) I am exhausted and 2) I am going to experience some spiritual growth. So, I have learned when this happens, I need to wait and expect something to happen. I pray, asking God to give me some emotional relief and asking God to give me spiritual acuity. In fact, I’ve noticed that many times when I am depressed, down, or negative, God can sharpen my ability to see Him at work. It doesn’t always happen but God does come thru more often than not. Okay, He ALWAYS comes thru, I just am not always ready to receive what He wants to teach me.
Interestingly, in our pastor’s sermon that day, I heard this, “We can assume that God is gonna come thru.” He was preaching about Daniel and Daniel’s desire to please God rather than follow the law of the land. Daniel, it is believed, was approximately 80 years old when he was thrown into the Lion’s Den for defying King Darius’ edict. Our pastor said, “Daniel had been faithful to God and God has been faithful to Daniel, in taking care of Daniel because he would rather please God than man.” Maybe Daniel was thinking, “I’m an old man, I’ve served God, maybe this is the end. Is God gonna come thru this time?” But the pastor reminded us, “Hope in God is NEVER false. We can assume that God is always going to come thru.”
Upon hearing this sermon, I felt a lift, a weight just leave me. The negative voices in my head stopped. I went up to the front to sing with the praise team, “Whom Shall I Fear?” which has the terrific line, “The God of Angel Armies is always by my side.”
As I was leaving, walking back to the car with Karyn, I heard my pastor’s question in my head, a question he asked just before ending the sermon, “How certain are you that God is gonna come thru?
My answer came quickly, “VERY.”BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
I recently interviewed more than twenty pastors who had been in ministry for at least 25 years. All of these men were over 55 years old. A few of them were retired, but most of them were still active in fulltime vocational ministry.
The interview was simple. I asked one open-ended question: “What regrets do you have about the years you have served as a pastor?” Each of the men could provide as many responses as they desired. They could make the answers succinct, or they could elaborate upon them.
Three pastors had as few as two responses; one pastor had nine. Most of the pastors noted three or four regrets. As a researcher, I typically see patterns develop in this type of subjective research. When it concluded, I was able to see seven definitive patterns, and I was able to see the frequency they occurred.
Below are the top seven regrets noted in order of frequency. I received a total of 17 different responses, but only these seven occurred with any degree of repetition. After each regret, I provide a representative direct quote from one of the interviewees.
So what do you think of these top seven regrets? What would you add?This post was written by Thom S Rainer. For the original post, go to: http://thomrainer.com/2012/12/19/the-top-seven-regrets-of-pastors/#.UV1mlb8YsipBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
- Lack of practical training for local church ministry. “I was not prepared for 80 percent of my day-to-day ministry after I graduated from seminary. I wish I had taken time to find some resources or places where I could get practical training. I had to learn in the school of hard knocks, and it was very painful at times.”
- Overly concerned about critics. “I had this naïve view that a bunch of Christians in a church would always show love toward each other. Boy was I wrong! There are some mean church members out there. My regret is that I spent way too much time and emotional energy dealing with the critics. I think of the hundreds of hours I lost focusing on critics, and it grieves me to this day.”
- Failure to exercise faith. “At some point in my ministry, I started playing defense and let the status quo become my way of doing church. I was fearful of taking steps of faith, and my leadership and churches suffered as a result. Not only was I too cautious in the churches I served, I was too cautious in my own ministry. I really felt God calling me to plant a church at one point, but I was just too fearful to take that step.”
- Not enough time with family. “I can’t say that people didn’t warn me. One wise pastor told me I had a mistress. When he saw my anger rising, he told me that my mistress was busyness in my church, and that my family was suffering from neglect. It hurts me to say this, but one of my adult sons is still in rebellion, and I know it is a direct result of my neglect of him when he was young.”
- Failure to understand basic business and finance issues. “The first time I saw my church’s budget, I thought I was looking at a foreign language. Greek is a lot easier than finance. They sure don’t teach you basic church finance and business at seminary, and I didn’t take the initiative to educate myself. I really felt stupid in so many of the discussions about the budget or other church business issues.”
- Failure to share ministry. “Let me shoot straight. I had two complexes. The first was the Superman complex. I felt like if ministry was going to be done well, I had to do it. I couldn’t ask or equip someone else to do it. My second complex was the conflict avoider complex. I was so afraid that I would get criticized if I didn’t visit Aunt Susie personally when she had an outpatient procedure that I ran myself ragged. In my second church I suffered burnout and ended up resigning.”
- Failure to make friends. “I know it’s cliché, but being a pastor can be lonely. I think many pastors get in trouble because we can get so lonely. I wish I had done a better job of seeking out true friends. I know if I had made the effort, there would have been a number of pastors in town that I could have befriended. Sometimes I got so busy doing ‘stuff’ that I didn’t have time to do the things that really matter.”
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Many of us find it very difficult to feel confident in intimate relationships. If we learned early in life that the people most important to us were unapproachable, then confidently approaching others as adults may be difficult. There are many ways to learn that approaching other people is dangerous. It can come from abuse, or criticism, or disinterest.
One result of experiences of this kind is that we find it difficult to be confident when we approach God. This is particularly true when we are feeling fragile, weak or needy. The last thing we expect is mercy and grace in our time of need. We expect to be criticized. We expect God to say 'why are you still so needy?'. We expect to be abandoned. We expect God to say 'I'm busy now.' We expect to be rejected. We expect God to say 'If only you had more faith or prayed more or read the Bible more or trusted me more.' With expectations like this, it is no surprise that we lack confidence when approaching God.
But God offers us an invitation we long to hear. He invites us to approach. And, God invites us to come with confidence. God will pay attention. God will hear us. God will be interested in our well-being. God will respond with mercy, grace and help.
I don't have much confidence, Lord.
I don't trust other people very much .
I don't trust you very much.
I don't expect mercy and grace
from anybody, especially in times when I'm this needy.
I expect criticism, abandonment, and rejection.
Thank you for inviting me to come to you.
Thank you for providing good reasons to have confidence in you.
You are full of mercy and grace.
This is a time of need for me, Lord.
Give me confidence to approach you today.
I need your mercy and grace.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
An unwelcome guest climbed into bed with me last night. No, it wasn’t our spoiled dog (I lost that battle a long time ago
) or one of our kids nursing a nightmare. It was something more sinister.
Something dark. Something ancient. It was fear.Have you noticed that fear is a night owl?
It seems to awaken as we’re trying to fall asleep. Dancing on the bed. Ripping off the covers. Screaming all our unknowns, regrets, and worries at such volumes that the sheep we’re trying to count get scared away.What am I afraid of? Well, you see, that’s the funny thing. I’m not really sure. Last night it was a parade of random things:
The weight of my new job
The guilt that seems to come with parenting.
The thought of the Democrats winning the election.
The thought of the Republicans winning the election.
The fact that I’m the father of a teenage daughter
The unrest in the Middle East (and my pending trip to Israel next month
The skyrocketing national debt and what that means for the future.
What if I mess this up?
What if my kids struggle?
What if the economy collapses?
What if Andrew Luck is never as good as Peyton Manning? (This is serious, folks
).Fear has a loud voice.
And no matter how beautiful your circumstances or how deeply you’re rooted in the truth, it has an uncanny way of grabbing your attention. Focusing you on potential mistakes and future unknowns.
And a little healthy fear
is a good thing. It keeps us focused, alert, on task, thinking about the future and wisely adjusting course for the inevitable contingencies that will come. But most of us serve our fears, we don’t harness them. We allow our imagination to project the worst possible outcomes and then we bow down in worship.And frankly, I’m tired of doing that.We’re going to face plenty of hardships and trials in this life. We’ll make some bad decisions, things will happen beyond our control, and outcomes won’t turned out like we planned. But there’s no sense in facing the fears we’ve fabricated. What a waste of energy! It’s time to expose those voices in your head as the liars that they are.
I’m told the Bible commands us to “fear not” 365 times
. One for every day of the year. Here’s one of my favorite:“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
Take that one to heart today. And then sleep well tonight.What are you afraid of? Are your fears night owls like mine?
This post was written by Erik Cooper. You can find the original post with comments, here: http://beyondtherisk.com/2012/09/19/dealing-with-fear/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
"I'm only gonna throw seed where it's gonna grow. I don't want to waste my time on those who aren't gonna grow..."
was the conclusion the pastor came to when he finished his sermon on the parable of the sower.
This pastor was an amazing man. I had served on the church board with him and supported him to the church body. The church had grown tremendously under his care.
Having just returned from the mission field after a year of service, things were noticeably different now in my church. He seemed focused on the building project and being selective about his time. Before, he was generous with the gospel and one could easily get in contact with him. But now, he seemed secluded and sequestered. He seemed unapproachable.
In my quandary, I sent a short letter to the missions board with whom I was just serving under asking for advice on how to deal with this pastor and church that I loved. The next thing I know, that letter had been passed to the bishop, then to the superintendent, then to the pastor.
The pastor called me into his office for a discussion.
Unfortunately, this discussion did not go well and my loyalty was questioned and I was placed on "probation." The next Sunday, the fellowship time before church was very arduous. I recall a group of my friends standing in a circle and I came up to the circle to talk with them and the group dissipated. I went to other friends and they were very short with me and discussions seemed strained. I believed that it was my own paranoia and my perceptions so I gave it time and prayer.
The following week a letter to the church from the board came out and my signature (as a board member) was on the bottom with other board members. I knew I had neither approved of nor signed it and I asked the pastor about it. He said, "oh, we have your signature digitized on the computer so we put it on there." I told him that I was very uncomfortable with my signature being used without my actually signing it or approving of it. Again, I was accused of not being a team player.
For the next few Sundays, it became increasingly difficult to attend. Other board members would hardly speak with me, friends that I had in the church no longer acted like friends. As this was a church in a denomination in which I was raised, this was difficult and I needed a firm answer from God if I was to stay or leave.
It was agonizing.
I was waiting and praying for God to tell me what to do. I attempted conversations but was repeatedly rebuffed. The pastor would not meet with me. I loved this church, this pastor and the people who attended there.
One Sunday, after church, as we were driving away, I looked back at the church and I saw a hand with a branding iron emblazoning the word "Ichabod" above the doorway. I thought about Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
I had no idea what the vision meant. I had no idea that Ichabod was a biblical name, especially a name with a specific meaning.
Interestingly, that week, in my personal Bible study, I came upon this verse: "She named the boy Ichabod, saying, "The glory has departed from Israel"..."
Well, the verse hit me hard. It was clear what God was saying. Reluctantly, we started to attend another church. About a month later, the pastor sent me a letter saying that he was sorry that I had left but understood why and wanted to reassure me that people wouldn't be bothering me about attending. So, he tipped his hand. He inadvertently let me know that he had told people about me. That hurt. I had no idea what he told people about me.
As I write this, and the experience is well over 20 years ago, I still feel a loss.
Interestingly, I heard that the pastor and this church left that denomination and became an independent church.
The church is very large and appears to be helping a lot of people. So, I don't know what it all means.
I do know, however, that God was very clear with me about leaving. I'm not saying that the church is bad or the pastor is bad. I'm just saying that particular church was not for me. There are a lot of good people in that church, people who earnestly want to do what God desires.
I still pray for God's direction in that church. BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
I was discouraged to say the least. Resting on a rock in the coolness of the night, I began to pray and look at the vast ocean of stars above my head. What was my purpose? Why was I here? I knew that God had more for me to do and experience but I was getting old. Much of my discouragement came from the fact that I knew I was getting old, and I had no sons to take care of my estate after my death. Call me old fashioned, but I just really thought it was important to pass on my possessions to the next generation.
As I rested and prayed, God revealed to me that I would be the father of many. I immediately thought of my age and my energy level. Even if this was true….how? My wife was past the age in which she could conceive a child (not to mention the lack of desire to take part in the “creative process”). I laugh about it now, because God has always been faithful to his word and I tend to listen to my fears. I was scared, confused and thought God was having a mental breakdown and needed a vacation. He promised me that day with a blood covenant of various animals. I suppose God knew something I didn’t know….like always.
Fast forward: God did what he said he would do. I found out, not only was God referring to my own blood line, but the promise He made also extended to people who embraced His son (very clever). Now, I have the opportunity to watch this story play out and I have made a couple observations about my “children”.
The one observation I can personally relate to has to do with God’s provision. Generation after generation has made the same mistake. No matter how many time God provides, we think that it was all a coincidence and God couldn’t possible do it again. We all know not to take God for granted, but this sentiment is taken so far to the extreme to the point where we don’t grant God the opportunity to show His power.
Finally, my children fail to remember that God can make future impossibilities a current reality. In the process our lives are changed and our capacity for deeper faith is increased. It is a difficult process to embrace, but pays infinite dividends if we choose to allow God to work.
Children, sometime soon, look into the sky and notice all the stars and realize something very important. God’s blessings are not limited and He hasn’t even scratched the surface with you.
This is a post written by Rev. DeCrastos. To see the original post go here: http://otherwordsdotnet.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/abrahams-journal/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Yesterday, we discussed four things that represent a real man,
a Christian man. Today, we conclude our discussion:5. The Christian man is free to be tender.
He no longer has to analyze everything objectively and express himself without feeling. He is now strong enough to be gentle.
He will touch and hold and kiss his children & grandchildren as Jesus held the children of his day and loved them. He will affirm others with words of truth and love and be generous with hugs and other physical expressions of encouragement. He will let others affirm and love him. He can laugh and cry with others like Jesus did. 6. The Christian man is free to forgive.
He will forgive others quickly and with a generous spirit as he has been forgiven by God. A redeemed sinner, and in process himself, he can sympathize and empathize with the struggles of others.7. The Christian man is free to stand for righteousness.
He will influence the world by courageous speaking the truth and acting on the truth he knows. Once he was too insecure to stand up for what he believed, but now he is secure in Christ's love.
He has the courage to expose the fruitless behaviors of darkness and to model the fruitful lifestyle of light, love and truth.8. The Christian man is free to be concerned for the world around him.
No longer driven by a need to build external evidences of his worth, he can give himself and his money away. He can work less to build his personal empire
, and more to alleviate suffering, hunger and the conditions that lead to distress, disease and death.
The Christian man is free to live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The information from this post is taken from Temptations Men Face.BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Sexual sin once robbed your heart of something very precious. Every little boy sees the fight for right and desires to be an agent of good, to be the good guy who saves the day.Every little boy has dreams and visions of one day being someone great and doing something great, but sexual sin often steals these dreams away. God wants to recapture those dreams and restore them for God's man on the battlefield. Victory restores these hopes and renews the dreams that were once vaporized in the midst of sexual sin.The dream lives! Now, with a sanctified heart, you know what you can do in Him. You feel it. You're a fighting machine, confident as you approach any battle. You've proven that your Command Officer can trust you with much as long as you abide in Him. And He's proven that you can trust Him to supply all you need in battle.Battles test and transform soldiers, and this test revealed the depth of your love for Him. You're stronger, and you're changed. God is a strong God, and He wants strong, confident soldiers in His kingdom who are good in a fight, even when facing daunting odds that seem overwhelming.Taken from Every Man's Challenge, pp 33-34.