A Singular Coal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A young man had come to a decision. “I will not be attending Church. I need to stand on my feet, and be a Christian my own way.” He was quite adamant about this, and his young wife hadn’t the slightest about what to do. It seems he had grown somewhat hard and coarse over the last few months. He had quit attending services for the last few Sundays.

She had made a discreet call to their pastor; she also prayed for her husband. “What else can I do?” she thought. “We really need to go to church.” She went about her busy morning, washing clothes, and tending the fire. “Somethings are best left in God’s hands” she said to no one in particular.

That evening was chilly and a fire was banked up quite nicely. The little house was cozy and ready to be “buttoned-up” for the night, when there was a knock on the door. It was the pastor, smiling and holding his hat. “Good evening. dear ones– someone told me you had a nice fire to sit by.”

“Come in, Reverend; please, come and sit,” the young husband said. He was not really enthused by the pastor’s sudden and unannounced visit, but he was polite. Removing his coat, the pastor sat in big wing-backed chair by the fire. He was quiet. No one said a thing. They just watched the flames.

The silence continued for some time; no one saying a word. Suddenly, the pastor popped up and grabbed the black iron poker from its spot by the fireplace. Poking at the sizable bed of coals, he managed to drag a single coal from the fire bed to the hearth. He separated it from the rest of so it burned on its own.

Still, not a word was spoken. Everyone just sat and watched this isolated coal burning on its own. In just a short time this glowing coal had become a dying ember. No one spoke. The pastor guided the once bright coal back into the hottest part of the firebox where it blazed up immediately. “Well, it’s late and I best be going,” said the quiet guest.

“Thank you, Pastor, for everything. We’ll see you Sunday morning.” said the young man.

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25 “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:25, NLT

“The Greek work for church, ecclesia, is made up of a prefix and a root. The prefix is ek – out of. The root is the verb coleo, to call. The church in the New Testament is made up of those who are called out from the world, from darkness, from damnation, from paganism, to become members of the body of Christ.”

   ~R.C. Sproul

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The Fishbowl and Your Pastor

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  Anon.

“A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation.”  A.W. Tozer

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Having been a senior pastor for three years, and in full-time ministry 20+ years, I have had to adjust to the constant surveillance of my life and my families. To be so visible, was wearying and maybe even demeaning at times. I was constantly “center-stage.” It’s funny but these two ingredients– the fishbowl and a pastor’s love for his/her people combine to create quite the interesting concoction. There is nothing like it. But overall, the fact is we are now quite visible to all.

However there is a special momentum you see when you are a pastor, you have a real sense of things moving , (if they really are.) However your flock will keep you both humbled and elated by their antics. You also will continually fight with the idea of ownership– but you don’t own them, God does! He will make sure you understand this, over and over. The flock is His, you are only a partial excuse, out from His will.

First of all, every pastor is a sinner. They have weaknesses and faults just like church members. This is not to say that they are not to live as an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3) and are not to have met certain moral qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). But we must be realistic about their sinful nature. They will continually do battle with the old nature which is still part of their lives, and will do so as long as they live. Pastors can be pretty ignorant at times. It does seem to be that folly is the human condition. They should understand this.

Total victory over sin will not be won in this life. Sanctification will take place; victories will occur; bad habits and sins will be overcome – but there will be many battles to fight until the day of glory… Remember that your pastor and his family constantly live in a fishbowl for all the church to see – and sometimes the sight is not always going to be particularly attractive.

They are humans also! The fishbowl life has its own special work in the pastor’s heart. Sometimes I believe His call on us is the deep point He makes in order to save us. It may be true. that those who are called “pastors” are those who are the most desperate, who really need to have this call in order to save us.

“God uses prisons to train people for future roles of leadership or martyrdom.’  Chuck Colson

Pray for your Pastor, pray for his/her family. This is by far and away the most significant work you could do for them. If they preach well, tell them. They want to know (even if they say they don’t!) Encourage their spouses, they alone have to live with failure and discouragement “behind the scenes”, without an outlet. They do know the real person who is a pastor. And please remember this, they are not your servants, but your friends.

Rattlin-Red-Bird

October is Pastor Appreciation Month–

You still have time to do something– (Like an Amazon Gift Card. “hint! hint!”)

Partial Source for post: A section from an email from Grace Notes, Curtis C. Thomas
Life in the Body of Christ, Founders Press, 2006, p. 151, 153,
 

A Pastor’s Transformation

Pastor-homeless-peoplePastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured left) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.

The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited– Matthew 25:31-46.

 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

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Bryan’s Note: Some have made this account to be nothing more than a “urban myth,” kind of a good piece of  Christian “schlock” that never happened. I personally can’t say for sure. I simply can’t vouch for its veracity. But all I really know is that it speaks to me in many ways about following Jesus. For that alone, I am thankful.

More of Jesus, less of Bryan.

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

Words of Hope for a Baby Born Blind

Anophthalmia–the condition of being born with no eye tissue–affects about 30 out of 100,000 babies, leaving them irrevocably blind. This is the letter that a pastor wrote to a Christian couple confronted with this tragic reality.

R

 Dear John and Diane,baby-with-no-eyes

Last night, as I prayed with Noel, you were heavy on my mind. I said, “Lord, O Lord, please let me be a pastor who preaches and leads and loves in a way that makes the impossibilities of life possible for your people by a miracle of sustaining grace. Help me to know the weight and pain of this life and not to be breezy when the mountains have fallen into the sea. Help me to have the aroma of Christ’s sufferings about me. Prevent shallowness and callousness to pain. O Lord make me and my people a burden bearing people.”

O John and Diane, I am so heavy with your child’s sightlessness! God is visiting Bethlehem Church with such pain these days in the birth of broken children. Randy and Ann Erickson with their baby’s broken heart; Jan and Rob Barrett with their baby’s liver outside the body; and your precious little one! Is the Lord saying, “I have a gift for your community.” This is not one or two or three couples’ burden. This is a gift and call to the whole church.

This is a word concerning the brokenness of this fallen age of futility. This is an invitation for you all to believe that “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14). This is an invitation for you to “count every gain as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7). This is a shocking test to see if you will “lose heart” when in fact God’s purpose is to show that his grace is sufficient to renew our inner person every day to deal with the “slight momentary affliction which is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

O Lord, open our eyes to your love in this pain. Open our eyes. “Then Elisha prayed, and said, ‘O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

John and Diane, the mountains surrounding your lives are filled with the horses and chariots of God. Only to the eyes of unbelief does the devil have the upper hand here. God is at work in ways and for years and generations and millions of people that we cannot now imagine. This is ours to believe and to bear, no matter the cost. This is ours for this short life.

It seems to me that this life is a proving ground for the kingdom to come. Some are asked to devote forty or fifty years to caring for a handicapped child instead of breezing through life without pain. Others are asked to be blind all their lives…

But only in this life – ONLY in this life. I want to be the kind of person who makes that “ONLY” what it really is – very short. Prelude to the infinity of joy, joy, joy. But not yet. Not entirely.

How will we ever cope with the burdens of this life if we believe this is all there is, or even the main act in this drama of reality? O Lord, give us your view of things.

May God fill you with anticipated joy.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

I love you,

Pastor John

Source: http://theworksofgod.com/2009/09/24/helpful-things-pastors-who-love-their-people/

Pastor John Piper site:  http://www.desiringgod.org/

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