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A Place of Peace

IMG_0406-2In a few days, I will be here. This picture is a sunrise at the Sea of Galilee. I was there 2 years ago. My wife and I, about 20 people from our church, and 20 from other churches will spend almost two weeks together touring the land of Israel. Having been there once before, my anticipation of seeing the Bible in 3-D again is growing.

This place – The Sea of Galilee – is where the men lived and fished when Jesus called them to follow Him. Jesus lived next to it and walked the roads and hiked the hills around it. And he rode with his disciples on it in their boats. One time He slept in the boat. The disciples woke Him up during a life-threatening storm, and He said, “Hush, be still.” And it was.

Storm. Peace.

The Son of God. Lived here. Taught here. Healed here. Calmed this water. Showed His love and power.

He eventually traveled to Jerusalem, about 70 miles to the south. He was crucified there. He rose again. He returned to this place and talked with the disciples. He met them as they returned from a night of fishing but no catching. He gave them fish for breakfast. On the shore. Cooked over a fire.

Fish for breakfast is one of my favorite things in Israel – it’s on most of the breakfast buffets. Delicious. Meaningful. It speaks of Jesus’ power, provision, forgiveness, restoration, and commissioning to ministry. Just like Jesus did with Peter. Just like He has done with me.

I love this place.

A place of peace.

 

Thank You, Merry Christmas, and a Blessed Beginning to 2016

I am grateful to you who read, thoughtfully consider, and share what I write here.

Why I write:

  • I write to think. Writing helps me organize, refine, and articulate what’s going on in my heart and head.
  • I write to learn. Putting my ideas into writing pushes me to know what I’m talking about and to thoroughly investigate my topics.
  • I write to help. I share from my study and experience in order to encourage, teach, and bless those who read.
  • I write to shape. I hope my ideas influence others. I want to have a voice that reaches more than just a few people, and that contributes to the maturing process of the body of Christ.

So far in 2015,

  • SpeakingofGod.org has had 4,631 visitors and 8,465 page views.
  • The site has had visitors from the following countries:
    United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Spain, Singapore, Philippines, Mexico, Ireland, Brazil, Romania, Sweden, India, New Zealand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Peru, Austria, Guam, Argentina, France, Swaziland, Kenya, Taiwan, South Korea, Croatia, Thailand, Lithuania, Russia, Malaysia, European Union, Nigeria, Bermuda, Switzerland, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Israel, Caribbean Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Zambia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka
  • The home page is the most viewed, so it’s hard to tell which single articles are the most popular, but the most viewed new posts this year, in addition to the home page, are:
    Sunday Evening Services are Dying
    Ashley Madison
    Church Member Migration Part 1  and Part 2
    Some of the Tipping, Tithing, and Grace Giving series

Thank you for reading. I hope you learn, grow, and are encouraged. Have a great holiday season and celebration of our Savior’s birth.

Dean

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Current Issues and Events

 

What A Discouraged Pastor Should Do (Part 2)

I recently read through 2 Timothy several times and journaled the specific ways Paul instructed Timothy to overcome his discouragement. Last week I shared the first four. Here are some more.

5. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2:1)

Man up! That’s probably how we would say it today. But Paul wasn’t urging Timothy to be self-confident, relying on his own strength of character, skills, or resolve. He reminded Timothy there is a source of strength available to every Christian – “the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Generally, grace is God’s favor that we don’t deserve. Specifically as it is used here, it is God’s personal help for challenging responsibilities. We have access to this help in Jesus because He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

How can we get this grace? Hebrews tells us that we can simply ask for it. Because Jesus can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15), He understands the overwhelming sense of inadequacy and inability that leads us to discouragement. Because He is full of grace, and because He understands our need for it, we can come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

So when I am discouraged, I can openly acknowledge it to my Savior and ask Him for the help I need. As He pours His grace into my life, I am able to be strong and “man up” to the overwhelming responsibilities, problems, decisions, and needs I face.

Take a walk. Or go to a quiet place where you can freely commune with God. Tell him you’re weak, faltering, and discouraged. Tell Him! Pour it out. Then ask Him, your understanding Savior, for grace.

Return strong. But keep going back to that place – the place where you ask for grace.

6. Gather some faithful men and teach them so they can do the same. (2:2)

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

When I get discouraged I question my effectiveness, withdraw from people, and fall into a cycle of negative thinking about my influence on others. My thoughts focus on the people who are not receptive to my leadership.

Paul told Timothy to do one of the simplest and most effective things a pastor can do. Select a few men who are receptive to your leadership and teaching. Get them together. Talk about the Bible or some topic that will help them grow in their personal lives and in their leadership. Do this with a view to developing and encouraging them toward being a positive influence in the lives of others – their buddies, their acquaintances, their families, additional study groups, etc.

This will accomplish two things. First, it will encourage you to spend time with people who want and respond to your leadership. Their receptiveness and growth will be something positive in your ministry that will lift your heart. Second, if negative things are happening in your ministry, these men will become forces for good. They will carry truth from your discussions into conversations they have with others. They will generate positive energy in the church body.

Put a few names on paper. Pick a book or section of the Bible, or a good book on some aspect of spiritual life and growth. Find out who’s interested in getting together. Set a time frame on it – 3 months, or whatever. Get started. You’ll be encouraged, and they will grow.

7. Endure hardship. (2:3)

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

This is sort of like “man up”, but with a little different emphasis. Soldiers face long marches, rough terrain, lack of sleep and food, constant life-threatening danger, fierce hostility from enemies, and more. Pastors face tough conditions and hostile people too. It goes with the territory. None of us gets special treatment that protects us from the hardships of life and ministry. We shouldn’t be surprised when there’s hardship.

It’s painful, tiring, and discouraging. It isn’t pleasant or fun. Oh, yes, there are many joys in ministry. But sometimes those are overshadowed by the hard stuff. When the hardships are especially heavy or long, our tendency is to want to escape. Check out. Move. Quit.

What are we to do? Endure.

The words “endure hardship” in this verse reflect one Greek word, kakopatheo, that means to “suffer affliction.” Paul tells Timothy, not to run from affliction, but to suffer through it. Paul used the same word in verse 9, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains.

Additionally, notice verse 10, Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, and verse 12, If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. The word used here for endure is upomeno, to remain under. We might say, Stay in!

Yes, there is a time to depart. I think a pastor can realize he has completed what God brought him to a church to accomplish in the life of that church. There can be another assignment ahead for him and another leader who will take his present church where it needs to go. But hardship is not the signal that your assignment is over, your work done. Sometimes you just need to stay.

In your time of hardship, open your heart to God, listen carefully to Him, and let Him tell you. Is it time to go, or time to stay?

8. Remember, Jesus rose from the dead, and the Word of God is not chained. (2:8-10)

I love this one. Paul literally tells Timothy, Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead! And, I may be in chains, but the Word of God is not chained! He applies these wonderful, powerful truths to his own painful, discouraging situation: Therefore I endure all things!

In your powerlessness over people, problems, and your own inadequacy, remember, Jesus rose from the dead! He is all-powerful and even conquered death. Your weakness is an opportunity to experience His power. And in the end, He wins, and we will all reign with Him.

In your limitations and seeming ineffectiveness, remember, God’s Word is not limited or bound. It is not chained by your circumstances, other people’s hardness and apathy, or your lack of ability.

Unleash the Word! If you can do nothing else, if you are paralyzed by discouragement, insecurity, lack of direction, criticism, or consciousness of your imperfections and limitations, open the Word. Infuse it into your own heart. Exposit it into the hearing and hearts of your people. The Word works.

It will accomplish what God wants.

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.  

Isaiah 55:10-11

 

I’ll share more of these points from 2 Timothy for discouraged pastors in the next post.

 

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2015 in Pastoral Ministry

 
 
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