I think that most of us in the Church fail to get a real grip on what pastoring is all about. And that is sad and bad. Not only do we stunt our pastors growth, but we cripple ourselves, and flunk some important spiritual lessons.
Three things (there are more, believe me)–
1) Our pastors are sinners. Surprise! They are just like you and me– definitely not superheroes and certainly not always saintly. They will have their moments, and struggles. We really need to understand this to fully receive from their giftings. Just knowing this about them, prepares us to receive deeply and sincerely from their ministries. It seems that their own battles work a brokenness and humility within.
2) Our pastors need to be prayed for. What they do is probably one of the hardest, most challenging work on planet Earth. The good pastors know this. But they still wade courageously into the thick of things. Our real prayers can buttress and stabilize their lives. They substantially encounter the darkness and do warfare for us. Most have a family to pray for, but they also have a Church they must cover too. A local pastor must have active intercessors, or they will certainly stumble and fall.
3) Our pastors must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. God’s work must be done His way. And He repeatedly insists they be filled with the Spirit. They receive power right from the true source. Again, Jesus the True Shepherd gives power and wisdom and grace for each singular moment. A good pastor over time and much prayer– develops discernment and an awareness for his flock. He learns to love them as he watches over them.
Much, much more could be written. There are so many facets to ponder. I only want to encourage you to love and honor your pastor. When you do this, it will probably activate the gift, and fresh ministry will become available. A real work will be done, inside of you and inside your pastor.
“Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32, NLT
Great hearts are often shuttled through experiences with intense forgiving. The Father tutors us through out our earthly lives, with many visits to this classroom. It is here we get our learning. It will happen several times in our walk, and we carry different nuances, or slants. Each time we are required to forgive authentically. The course is set for us. We can’t choose to skip these lessons without injuring ourselves, and harming others.
We are learning to love– it is our calling and destiny. There are no “accidents” or misaligned ‘drop-outs’ here. We step into our classroom, and the Teacher and Comforter begins His instruction. Many things will strike you as diabolical. Deep inside us we have simply no idea of how “this” will turn out for good. And you’d be right. But the power of God steps in, and “all is well”.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian. After her release from a Nazi concentration camp, she began traveling the world and speaking to any who would have her. The needs of postwar Europe were desperate. She traveled as an evangelist telling people who Jesus is and spoke about His redemption. She gave many people hope.
Through her travels she came in contact with a few of the guards that had been a part of the Nazi regime and had to practice forgiveness that only Jesus can bring. The first encounter with one of her previous jailers proved to be most difficult.
Here is an excerpt from her book, “The Hiding Place”.
“It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
She then took his hand and the most incredible thing happened.
From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
Corrie’s Wisdom for Us
There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.
Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.
When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.
Faith is like radar that sees through the fog-the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.
Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.
Thoughts from Other Believers
Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. Author Unknown
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. C.S. Lewis
There is such a big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. It takes two to reconcile, so it is not always possible to be reconciled. But it takes only one to forgive. So if people do you wrong, forgive them, whether or not they ask for forgiveness. You cannot cancel their sin. Only God can do that, and He will only do it if they repent. But what you can do is set aside your own anger, bitterness, and resentment towards them. Philip Graham Ryken
Forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:
“I will not dwell on this incident.”
“I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
“I will not talk to others about this incident.”
“I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.” Ken Sande
For her efforts to hide Jews from arrest and deportation during the German occupation of the Netherlands, Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) received recognition from the Yad Vashem Remembrance Authority as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” on December 12, 1967.
“The Hiding Place” and her many other books can be purchased at Amazon.com. It really must be read and there is a movie out with the same name.
“A church in the land without the Spirit is rather a curse than a blessing. If you have not the Spirit of God, Christian worker, remember that you stand in somebody else’s way; you are a fruitless tree standing where a fruitful tree might grow.”
“How little chance the Holy Ghost has nowadays. The churches and missionary societies have so bound Him in red tape that they practically ask Him to sit in a corner while they do the work themselves.”
“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”
Romans 6:6, NLT
“There are two things which the Church needs: more death and more life— more death in order to live; more life in order to die.”
The need of this moment is critical. Many believers have never came to this point of ‘knowing.’ Maturity comes when one realizes that crucifixion has dealt with the old man. We died when He died, we were there when He died, we were part of that event. Romans 6 is all about a believers ‘co-crucifixion’ with Jesus Christ. Calvary was far more than a religious event— it was where our sin was terminated. It was more than just a penalty carried— it was where our old nature put to death.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ.It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Sin has no power to sway a dead man. A man who is dead doesn’t respond to a girl in a leopard skin bikini. (It doesn’t matter if she is insanely gorgeous.) He no longer can be tempted to sin. Why? Because he is dead. This is not an issue of semantics, it is not poetic interpretation of a metaphor. It rings true in heaven.
Sin should no longer remain in power of a believer’s life. We believe that our sins have been dealt with on the cross, that Jesus took our sins from us, bearing them as a ‘sacrificial lamb.’ But the same is true to say, “My sinful nature was also crucified with him.”
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”
The principle is from farming. A kernel of wheat will bring an abundance. But it must be buried first. The dead seed miraculously sprouts. At the moment of death it suddenly receives a new life. The dead seed grows into a bountiful harvest. This is the New Testament principle of dying to self. A few things:
we are not sinless— we must deal daily with the sinful part of us,
this must be taken by faith, much like anything else from God,
discipline aids our quest for holiness, 1 Tim. 4:8
fulfills the sacrament of water baptism, it’s a daily reckoning, Rom. 6:4,
temptations can be really strong, but He enables us,
this is a God honoring way to live.
Crucifixion should always be taken by faith in God’s Word and it will lead to resurrection. Crucifixion weakness is necessary for resurrection power. Jesus shares his life with us— his power is given to his people. He shares all that he is so we might become like him.
“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”
I’m convinced that as people with issues: physical and mental, we are given a gracious teacher in the person of the Holy Spirit. He will never condemn our feeble efforts to be holy. Be encouraged: God makes the weakest of us strong.
“And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.”
Hebrews 1:2-3, NLT
There is an idea of an existance of a ‘common grace’ that touches every person on this rock called Earth. What is suggested with this, is that every person has access to grace; at least on a basic level, such as nature, government, medical, education and judicial. We all are sharing in common grace whether we are saved or not.
Common grace explains a great deal,“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”(Matt. 5:45) They both benefit from His care, whether they believe or disbelieve.
On the other pole, lies ‘special grace.’ It is different. It is grace that is given to those who put their trust in the promises for salvation, deliverance and healing. These promises can only be enjoyed by a Christian believer. Special grace is grace that God gives to each one who is in a covenant relationship with Himself.
I got up early the other morning, with a cup of coffee in hand and went to sit out on my steps. I have to tell you that mornings are truly delightful here in Alaska. As I sat looking at the trees and watching the clouds, the sun was caught by the trees and they began to glow. (I always think of the burning bush of Moses and secretly wonder if trees don’t remember and try to emulate their ancestor so long ago.) I hear the cranes from the lake. And all of this touches me.
Just as I physically awoke 20 minutes ago, I now awaken spiritually. Common grace makes this all possible. When I first became a believing Christian, I was quite amazed at how blue the sky was. The grass seemed greener. I remember feeling amazed that I hadn’t noticed these things before. I guess I was full of joy over the special grace that I had just been given.
“Common grace curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.”
–Louis Berkof, Christian theologian
I love common grace. It makes it possible to enjoy my coffee in the sunshine on the deck. Common grace allows me to hear the crane’s special song. People everywhere are drawing from the common well of common grace. “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” (John 1:4)
GOD, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.
Living ONE DAY AT A TIME; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
By Reinhold Neibuhr
Many of us have come across this prayer before, but this is the full unedited version.The poem, read in its full version is truly an inspiration. I find my heart echoing each line, and hoping it would be true for myself. Read it:
It is good to read the full prayer vs. the one that our culture seems to have adapted and adopted as their own, I suspect this this full version has a little more panache and a whole lot more authority to it. I welome it and the light to bring to us.
“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
John 15:2, NLT
In order to become fruitful we must accept the knife.
It takes a sharp eye and a sharper knife to do the Father’s work of cutting. He slices to the quick, and all that is not useful falls to the ground. The vine will produce grapes, and every bit of “grape-energy” will be used productively. Fruitlessness will be cursed, and sterility is condemned. It takes a decisive heart, as well as a wise hand to prune God’s own vineyard.
Fruitless believers may become fruitful ones. Understand, the vine dresser does not attack the vine. He is not malicious or vengeful. All that He does is for the good of the vine. He is motivated to produce fruit. That is what He thinks about; you could say that He is preoccupied with that singular end.
Pruning and fruit are concepts that we vacillate over, some days we understand and other days we blow it off. After over 30 years, I’ve heard every “John 15 sermon”. And most of the time I turn down my spiritual hearing aid. That is tragic, and shows my heart has become hardened.
I need to come on board with this particular imagery. For years I have asked God to “show me His ways”. I’d like to believe that this understanding of pruning has changed me. I would like to think that I have attained a clearer view of wisdom. This pruning business is all well and good. But being sanctified by the knife is decidedly unattractive and uncomfortable.
You must be pruned; pieces of your life are earmarked to be lopped off. (I always wonder if the trees that are spray painted are curious over the why and the when they are to be cut?) In regards to being fruitful we must accept the knife. If we want to be holy and conform to the image of Christ we will be cut. There is simply no other way.