I’m a Steamroller! [the Tongue}

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“And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”

James 3:6, NLT

I have done many things in my 50+ years.  My resume is pretty broad and quite diverse.  I have been a corporate trainer, and I have been a commercial fisherman.  I have been an inner-city evangelist, and an Army medic.  I have been a senior pastor, and a missionary to Mexico.  But more than anything, I have been quite consistently, “a steamroller.”

Steamroller. I think I better explain myself.  I’m a man that has consistently used my words to crush other people, and this really disturbs me.  I have flattened people, smearing them on the pavement.  There was Vicky at the SOS- San Francisco Evangelism Ministry house.  She irritated me, so I went up and told her, the “Vicky, this is the Word of the Lord. Read Judges 16:16!”  And she melted before my words, torn and ripped apart by my twisting of scripture.  I steamrolled over her heart.  And I really don’t know why I did it. I wanted to be cute I guess.

As a pastor, I plowed over the hearts of “a children’s ministry.”  It was more subtle, but it had the same degree of a deep intensity.  (They would go on, but fizzle out in less than two weeks later.)  I was the steamroller that crushed their hearts and dreams.  Years before, at my Bible college, I stamped out and destroyed those who were not as precise as I was when it came to proper believing.  I steamrolled them as well.

Over the years I have become very grieved over my consistent crushing of those who were different, who saw ministry in a differing way.  When they would become “clear and obvious” to me, (their false doctrine and such) I considered it a scriptural necessity to “roll, baby roll” right over them.  But, I was oh, so foolish.  I harmed so many of His servants.  What I was doing was wicked.

My words–like weapons, were cutting and hacking and lacerating.  My words were crushing and stamping out the gentle hearts and their vision.  People, dear ones.  The things we say, go on to “burn and burn” and nullify the kind hearts of those who want to follow.  Often our “professionalism” as pastors and teachers very often cripple those who tenderly follow.  We go “nuclear” on them, scorching the earth, when all they needed really was a calm and directive word.

Brothers and sisters.  We have to stop this,  being right does not mean we are loving.  We divide the flock far too often.  We most likely will be right–but we don’t love.  We jump up in our steamroller in a split second.  We put it in gear, and we roll over those for whom Christ died–and we feel quite noble and holy, as we protect the Church from “bad thinking,” or bad examples.

Could it be, that what are you saying, wounds?

Be very careful.  You maybe right, and you just might be true, but if you are not loving, you will only hurt them, and undoubtedly you will regret what you have done.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14, ESV

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Making Pain Work for You, [Trials]

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“Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, “We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God’s kingdom.”

Acts 14:21-22, CEV

Paul and Barnabas, together are perhaps the most gifted men ever to minister the Gospel.  They have an amazing love for the Church.  They operate out of great difficulty, but the deep work they do, proceeds out of encouragement.  I looked at a dozen or so translations of the Bible–all of them translate this, “encouraged.”  Every single one!

Earlier in chapter 14, we can read about the brutality and ugliness they had to walk through.  It was very bad, beyond belief.  But these two never ever lose their love for the Lord, and for His people.  Their ministry continued to be full of optimism and comfort.  They simply can’t be poisoned by the nastiness and bitterness just days before.

They understand something.  What they have to say (as they minister that comfort) kind of boggles everyone’s thinking.

They said, “We must suffer many things to enter God’s kingdom.”

Comforting and strengthening, isn’t it?  Sometimes when I read this passage I can’t believe what they are saying!  It doesn’t make any sense at all.   I believe there are three things we must process to fully understand these verses.

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1)  What comforts us is not always comfortable.

 I’m slowly coming to the place of accepting pain and sickness as my personal doorway into the Lord’s kingdom.  I know my mental illness has opened an entrance into something wonderful.  My months of being institutionalized in different hospitals has seemed to have filled me with grace, gentleness and love–in other words, the kingdom. At least that is what I think.

2)  What we think is the best way often is not.

No one chooses one’s particular path.  If we could we would all be driving a BMW and our homes would be palaces, we would win the lottery on a regular basis.  Our children would be little angels.  We would never be sick, or have a chronic illness.  But–we can’t enter His kingdom, unless there are trials.  They have to be there, they must.  Somewhere it says,  if we suffer, we will reign.

3)  What we need from our elders and pastors is the truth.

 Often the leadership of the Church keeps this one in the closet.  They communicate very well other subjects that are enjoyable.  And we pressure them to do this, gently and subliminally of course.  And everyone wonders why we don’t mature in our faith.  Paul and Barnabas are tremendous leaders, but they don’t roll things in sugar, and their ministry carries on the sufferings of Jesus.

Often it seems, when God chooses to bless a man or a woman greatly, He will send a trial to prepare them deeply.

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Being Lured Back, [Apostasy]

Recently I read a news story about pastors who have been led into atheism.  These are all evangelical men, some with more than 20 years of experience in the pulpit.  They’ve turned to a belief that God does not exist.  It was a disturbing article, and I will not try to share much of it here on this page.

There is among us a prevalent manipulation that is relentlessly reaching out for us in order to destroy our faith.  This force has an ally; and this ally is resident in us.  My flesh becomes the connection that Satan needs to link with–  to make it work.  The Bible calls this residing connection, ‘the old man’.

Some of the ‘brothers’ who now walk in apostasy to the Faith still remain in ministry.  Even though they don’t believe anymore, they continue to preach and counsel their congregations.  Many will only speak out under the condition of anonymity.

One in particular said it was somewhat difficult to continue to work in the ministry. “But I just look at it as a job and do what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it for years.”

This pastor said, that when speaking to parishioners, he tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that he still believed in — the parts about being a good person. Many pastors say that they would like to leave their jobs but they can’t afford to.

Please someone, and correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Bible speak of shepherds and hired men?  Some who are called by God, and others who do it for money?  Does this disturb anyone but me? 

 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

John 1o:13

These ‘pastors’ and their issues of faith are all on the heart of God.  He loves these men.  His Son died for them.  They are precious.   But they make an effort to conceal themselves, in order that they will continue to receive the wages/benefits they’ve become accustomed to.

When I was ordained into the ministry, it came with the provision that if I could not remain faithful that I was obligated to ‘step down’.  It was as much a decision to be faithful as it was for empowerment from above.  If I should ever become conflicted, I would voluntarily stop and step down.  It was part of the ‘package’.  It came with that understanding.

So much confusion, but that is characteristic of the times in which we live.  Our shepherds are an increasingly an influential part of our lives in these last days.  They guide and preach the Word to us. 

Perhaps, we have not prayed for them like we should

As a result they’ve become casualties.

There is a desperate need for us to take the darkness seriously.  It has a pulling power to reach us and latch upon us.  It opens its mouth to swallow us into a perpetual night.  Everything that strays end up in its oversight.  The thing that saves us is the presence of Jesus.  His hand on our lives removes us out of Satan’s claim.

Darkness has an incredibly sweet allure.  It has a power that is beyond our comprehension.  It seems to want to enhance us. It causes us to think that we are immune or superior to the things God has commanded.  The sky is the limit, and we press into even more foolishness.  But truth does not come to those who trade salvation for more darkness.

 

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P.S. The story that ‘got me going’ is found here.

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/atheist-ministers-leading-faithful/story?id=12004359

Our Hearts Plead for Good Pastors

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I always felt that being a pastor was a lot like this

October has been set aside for appreciation of our pastors. I encourage you to pray for them and their families.

flourish2 Within our personal issues of vulnerability, there are usually great problems. These are tender areas: Alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illnesses, homosexuality, sex addiction, porn and chronic depression are all substantial issues of pain and conflict. But as defeated strugglers we are often intimidated by leadership in the Church.

It seems all we can see is their authority, and we are fearful.  Typically, in our fellowships, our pastors and elders are men.  And that alone can sometimes create issues in hearts looking for a tenderness that will heal.

Rather than opening our brokenness up to our shepherds, we fabricate illusions of sufficiency and invulnerability. We are afraid, and our pain still resides in our hearts.  (We were never designed to carry this.)

As strugglers with great pain and confusion, we often brand ourselves as hopeless and completely defeated.  Some of us secretly believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. But this is a lie, as God forgives every sin.

They’ve heard they are going to hell no matter what they do, so they are permanently separated from God. They need to know this is a lie, because whenwe confess our sins, the blood of Jesus covers them ALL and cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Many of us who struggle have a ugly and a twisted sense of our leaders in the Church. We get “really weird” whenever we meet them– an intense paranoia.  Typically, we sense avoidance of those who try to pastor us.  As a result our flaws and weaknesses will only grow us away (not towards) the Church.

Cellulitis is bacterial infection of  the skin and underlying tissue.  While I was in the Army, I developed this inflammation in my right forearm.  It started as a very small spot.  My arm quickly ballooned up, and within days I couldn’t bend my arm.  The infection just continued to grow and spread.  But I refused to see a physician.  When I finally did, they had to drain the wound, and I was put on heavy-duty antibiotics and bedrest. I could have easily lost my arm.

Often we try to live a life separated from outside intervention.  We avoid people who could really help us.  But we are sick, and need a pastor or elder to work through these things. But they intimidate us, and we expect to be rebuked, reprehended and rejected.  Certainly that there is often a need for scriptural correction, but always in love– and even some tears.  

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An Open Note to All Pastors and Leaders:

There is almost always a definite frailty that is common in the hearts of us strugglers.  We have fought for our spirituality, sanity, personality and even our sexuality. We have very few relationships, and the ones we do have are seldom healthy.  We are intimidated by authority and afraid of any kind of transparency.  We live under a enormous pile of shame and nasty guilt.

We need “good shepherds” that can be deliberately gentle and tender. Pastors and elders ought to reflect the astonishing grace of God.  We need His deep love, and you must show us what that’s like.  Please show us.  Verbalize it.  We need to know that we have been forgiven, over and over. Make much of the Grace of God.

You may already know this, but some in your flock have broken walls. Our boundaries are down; they are crumbled, and we are in true danger.  We need you to help us, and share His love and acceptance, and yours as well.  We need to be immersed in the atmosphere of spiritual kindness and forgiveness. It’s not you being a perfect pastor, but us together knowing a perfect God, who flows through yours (and my) imperfection quite willingly.

“We don’t forgive people because they deserve it. We forgive them because they need it–because we need it.” ― Bree Despain

We are not like the “norms” in your congregations.  It is highly unlikely we will be completely healed in this life. Also, many of us are gifted by the Holy Spirit, but we are flawed and we struggle a lot. Pastors must grow in their gifting, so maybe we will grow together. But please consider this; perhaps you need us as much as we need you (?).

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us, your little flock)
 
 
 
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Eldership is the Backbone of Any Church

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” I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. 6 An elder must live a blameless life…”

Titus 1 :5-6, NLT

For some time I’ve been thinking about the Book of Titus and Paul’s command to establish elders in every city. I began to realize that elders are God’s way to reach a decadent culture. All of a sudden, it began to jell. In Crete the culture was depraved, and in the midst of that Paul did not suggest a program, he didn’t direct Titus to start a parachurch model. He told Titus to set men in place. It is not a program, it is a person— an elder!

As part of the Church, broken and confused as we are, we need relationships desperately.  When I’m depressed or manic, handicapped or not– God’s grace almost always comes through an elder or godly brother or sister.  We are built specifically for that purpose. They do things which none can do.  They are “marble pillars” in our Father’s house. I love and respect them, even if they are wrong. (Which isn’t often.)

Now I believe in programs. They often have a good function in the activity of the local church. But we have a tendency to view them as an answer or solution to the need of the moment. We should however, look to God’s way or plan, which I believe is Godly elders.

Its not a plan, but a man. Throughout Israel’s history, Godly men and women have stood up to bless the Kingdom. Their faith, love, and humility directed victory and revival for the people of God. We seem to have this tendency to want to bring in a fresh program (and there is quite a few) to do what we think will fix a problem (which may be real, or not). They are usually quite witty and clever, and can be reduced to a “Powerpoint” presentation.

I realized several years ago, that the kingdom of God worked,  and flowed out of relationships. This dramatically changed my thinking. I began to see my personal connections as the way God’s grace would flow. Many churches belong to a denomination. The problem is that is primarily an organizational model, not always a relationship.

I believe that God works through relationships between people touching people. We need to adjust how we view things. The elders that Titus set in place were to be Godly men. They would stand in remarkable contrast to the culture of Crete. They were were to be the way God’s kingdom would touch the church and the lost. (Light vs. darkness metaphor.)

I could be wrong. But at least that is how I read Titus.

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“The Church Collects Sinners,” [God’s Hospital]

This following excerpt is from the devotional book, “Living the Message,” by Eugene H. Peterson.  This pastor-professor is probably the person I want to grow up to be like; he has a gentleness and eloquence that is seldom seen–and highly respected.
Author of many books, and his extraordinary translation of the Bible, titled “The Message” which is regarded by many as a masterpiece of the English language. 
Additionally, he has recently focused on the pastor, and on the many issues a pastor might face.  He understands being a servant of the Gospel and the Church. 
I encourage you to read his stuff.  

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“When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.  Outsiders, on observing this, conclude there is nothing to this religious business, except perhaps, business…and a distant one at that.  Insiders see it much differently.”
“Just as a hospital gathers the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the Church collects sinners.  Many of the people outside are just as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised.  It is similar with sinners outside the church.”

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 Some other quotes by Eugene Peterson:

  • “All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.”
  • “When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves. “
  • “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us- he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
  • “American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.”
 
Some Good Solid Websites:
 
 
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The Depression Epidemic

Why we’re more down than ever—and the crucial role churches play in healing.

Dan G. Blazer | originally posted 3/06/2009 at Christianity Today

crossredThe church is God’s hospital. It has always been full of people on the mend. Jesus himself made a point of inviting the lame, the blind, and the possessed to be healed and to accompany him in his ministry, an invitation often spurned by those who thought they were fine as is. We should not be surprised, then, that the depressed populate not only secular hospitals and clinics, but our churches as well. Yet depression remains both familiar and mysterious to pastors and lay church leaders, not to mention to those who share a pew with depressed persons.

Virtually everyone has experienced a “down” day, often for no clear reason. We might say we “woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” are “out of sorts,” or just “in a funk.” Such polite references are commonplace in America. Yet as familiar as melancholic periods are to us, the depths of a severe depression remain a mystery. We may grasp in part the distress of King David:

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King David putting pain in his Psalms

“Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak”

(Ps. 31:9-10).

But most of us have no idea what David meant when he further lamented, “I am forgotten by them as though I were dead” (v.12). Severe depression is often beyond description. And when such deep and painful feelings cannot be explained, they cut to the heart of one’s spiritual being.

Humans are intricately complex creatures. When things go wrong in us, they do so in myriad and nuanced ways. If churches want to effectively minister to the whole of fallen humanity, they must reckon with this complexity. Depression indicates that something is amiss. But what? And what should churches be doing about it?

For the remainder of this article:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/march/15.22.html

 

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