Do you have someone you can share everything with? Do you have a group that you keep close? You tell them when ministry is hard. You share when people have let you down. You open up about your fears. You tell them things that you can’t tell everyone, shouldn’t tell everyone. Jesus brought a small group close to his pain.
33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death….” (Mark 14:33-34)
Ministry is not an easy life; Jesus had moments of distress and despair and sorrow and grief. AND, Jesus had friends to share it with, to watch him hurt. Who do you bring close, leader? What do you tell them, pastor? Are you sharing enough? Your honesty will empower and resource their future vulnerability. Revealing your weakness makes them stronger.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Apostle Paul (Gal 6:2)
Many Christians never accomplish anything because their church leaders tell them they can’t. In fact, some faith traditions pride themselves in over-emphasizing the frailty and fallen-ness of the “frozen” and “chosen”. Such perspective produces a downward spiral of ministry stagnation. Since we talk about how little we can do, without Christ, we end up doing so very little for Christ. That isn’t how the Apostle Paul approached his ministry.
To Paul, his to-do list was victory waiting to happen. He didn’t focus on what he couldn’t do but saw everything through what Christ could do through him. Ministry was opportunity for success, a battle ready to be won. Spend more time teaching your church everything that Christ can do through them and they will spend more time doing, sharing, encouraging, praying, teaching, helping, giving, and conquering.
Without Christ, we can’t do anything. This statement is theologically true. HOWEVER, we have Christ, and we can do anything. Why talk about what isn’t possible?
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – The Apostle Paul (Phil 4:13)
Faith takes life’s direction and resigns it to God’s discretion. We are left wanting and waiting and falling and flailing without a parachute. And, with this falling, comes an emotion and a need. We feel afraid. Yes, fear and faith are not foreign to each other. How else should we describe the empty abandonment felt before the deliverance of God, not the elation experienced after God confirms the promise. Faith involves fear. It is the cold dead tomb, sealed and silent.
Faith is also need. “God, you must act or I die. You must catch me.” With no need faith does not lead us to new mornings with new days. There is no descent into Christ. Our faith has neither stretched us nor moved us nor changed us. Without need we are not transformed because our self is not crucified upon the altar, nor is pride and self-confidence killed. Faith is a tomb sealed by a rock only God can move, and waiting till morning.
People must know that faith leads to dark, God-intended places. They must expect fear or they will flee the tomb. They must expect need or they will not wait to see God fulfill it. Tell them, “Once you step you are going to start to fall. It is alright to be afraid. It is the right emotion for one out of control. You are gong to be at a loss. But, wait for God. His timing is perfect and provision is beyond measure. After the cold sealed tomb is the blessed morning of resurrection and new life.”
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me…do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:8
Look what I read from Psalm 47. Note the highlighted words and then use your imagination to set the stage. What does this look like?
This is loud, screaming, clapping, foot stomping, proclamation that our champion is the best.
Now I get that not all churches have the same worship traditions, cultures, and tones. Some are more somber while others are simply out-of-control. (I mean that in a bad way). Yet, here is a biblical call from a leader of worship, to God’s people, to raise praise for their Champion. And, all churches need this on some regular basis.
- Theological reason– fanatic praise is a fitting response to God’s work. Big God should get big praise, right?!
- Emotional reason– fanatic praise counters weekly set-backs in our lives.
- Social reason– fanatic praise unites strangers. It is the power of common cause.
- Mental reason– fanatic praise reminds us of past victories and future hope.
- Evangelical reason– fanatic praise is inviting to people with no champion.
- Discipleship reason– fanatic praise lets internal truths become external expressions. (You “worshiping”, “in your heart” does nothing for me who is watching the outside, just saying)
Find ways during your weekly gatherings to cultivate a social identity around our victory in Christ. Help people see themselves as loved and saved and chosen. Call them to clap, and shout, and sing, and sound off…to be fanatical. We need reminded that we are going to win. We need to surround ourselves with like-minded losers-made-winners-in-Christ.
Honestly, I’m not a sports fanatic. I’m not a music fanatic. And, reading Psalm 47, I’m not much of a God fanatic. It is hard for me to be that expressive. It’s my introversion. Self-consciousness. Pride. Hosts of things. Maybe there are church leaders that will go slow and take the time to help people like me experience greater intimacy with God and guide me toward a more fanatical faith in a Champion that has never lost a battle!
Honeycrisp apples are harvested between September 15th and October 10th. Further, optimal harvesting only happens in the 4th week of September. You only get quality apples during a 3-4 week period out of a 52 week year. Does that make the apple tree unfruitful? Does that make the tree inefficient? Does that make the tree “disobedient” and “sinful”? Is it not putting forth enough effort?! Of course not. A healthy tree is constantly laboring, beneath the surface, roots drawing and pulling nutrients from the surrounding soil. And, when the season comes, the fruit is revealed.
Teach your church to focus more on their roots and not to stare at each others barren branches that behold the fruit. Everything has a season and a time. Encourage them to stay at it; at prayer, at celebration, at fasting, at meditating day and night on God’s word. The fruit comes when the time comes.
The righteous are like trees…which yield their fruit in its season. Psalm 1:2
Below are my thoughts on the new waters God has set me towards. It is longer than most posts so I composed it as a separate pdf. Share and quote as you like. Fair seas to you!
PDF – Captain to Captain
To experience God’s healing you first must be sick. To see God’s leading you must first be lost. To know God’s warmth you must first feel cold. To receive God’s provision you must first be in want. To get God’s protection you must first be in war.
God is not one to waste His promises on the off chance they might be overlooked, mistaken, or misappropriated. God gives His promises only when the receiver is sure to have them as God’s promises and not happenstance, luck, coincidence, or self-ingenuity. At the end of despair and doubt and depression God comes as a shining light of hope and healing. Yet, before He pulls you out you must find yourself with no way out. When the last hour has struck and your last card has been played, when you have nothing left to do but wait on God…watch!
He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but he said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’ – Julian of Norwich
A thousand may fall at your side…but it will not come near you. – Psalm 91:7
Some books are hard because the words are big and sentences complex and chapters long. Other books are hard because they are so simple to read but incredibly confrontational to your heart and soul. A colleague and friend encouraged me to read A Tale of Three Kings a year ago. Its simplicity and truth untied deep knots in my heart and melted into my mind. It has been a book that God has brought back to me again and again. A quick read but one you want to take slow. Read it for transformation and not information! Warning- God will use this book to break you, to bring you brokenness, and then He will heal you.
Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. – I Samuel 18:10-11
Hear an audio book review at youtube.com
[I wrote the following in my journal during our last family camping trip]
Gripped by anxiety. All was well till gathered round the (camp)fire I felt my soul drop. Was it too many dangers? Hot fire? Uneven ground riddled with roots? Sharp searing hot dog irons? I could not affirm them (my sons) but rather ruined the night with my anxious craze. I cannot affirm them frozen by anxiety!
I cast all my cares upon You.
I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet
And any time I don’t know what to do
I will cast all my cares upon You
And he (God) will give His angels watch over you so you will not…They will lift you up in their hands so you will not strike your foot upon a stone (Psalm 91:12)
Isn’t my God so aware and able that He can keep my precious one’s from harm? Need I only trust his Hands and Eyes? Need I only lay their safety in His most able care? Different vacation but same lesson it seems.
Better Your Hands to keep
Those most precious to me
To Your trust I lay their life
No stumble, fall, no pain nor strife
“Angels watching ’round their feet”
God, my anxious soul entreats.
The local church is the Carpenter’s shop. It is full of his masterpieces resting in various stages of restoration. He ever-so-gently works at the layers of grime and filth that cover his craftsmanship. Tender are his hands. Truth and trial are his tools of choice. Time is his friend. He works with precision to reveal the masterful form and original beauty and wonderful wood-grains latent and layered by years of bad belief, false narratives,and habitual sin. Oh, it hurts. The letting go and sanding away hurts.
The longer you lay on his worktable and sit under his gentle hands the more you see that everything he does is bathed in love and grace and perfection. You might not see it now. We shall marvel at it later.
The Lord is our ‘Carpenter’…He restores our soul. Psalm 23:3