Posts Tagged With: pastor

The Mysterious Member of the Trinity (Part 2)

flickr-holy-spirit-stained-glassYou could call the Holy Spirit Jesus’ going away present, first to His disciples, and then, of course, to each of us. As you will hear in this PODCAST, we’re talking about The Third Member of Trinity, the Mysterious Member of the Trinity.

Here in John 14-17 — the so-called Upper Room Discourse, even though as we noted last week, Jesus taught the amazing truths of John 15-17 after He and the disciples-minus-Judas had hastily departed the Upper Room, steps ahead of the Judas-led-posse seeking Jesus’ arrest — we have the first extended theological discussion of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, actually in the entire Bible.

Up until now the biblical writers have been largely silent regarding the multifaceted ministry of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout the Old Testament. But the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is not developed in the Old Testament. This, as you are about to hear, for very good reason, one that harkens all the way back to the very first podcast in this series.

So here we have, in the Upper Room Discourse, one of the very few places in Scripture where the biblical writers (in this case, John) devote much ink and parchment to a discussion of the Mysterious Member of the Trinity.

One of three principle themes that Jesus develops in this, His  farewell address to His men, literally minutes before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Underscoring this entire Upper Room Discourse is a vitally

important principle to which Jesus alluded in High Priestly Prayer that we will study in detail in John 17. A declarative sentence of very few words that speaks volumes as to how Jesus wants His committed followers then and now to engage the world in which we live.

John 17:15: “Father, I do not ask you to take my followers out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.”

HOW UTTERLY IRONIC!!! (I’ll tell just how ironic in this podcast. Enjoy!)

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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THE Very.Best.Thing Ever

jhghgfjpg

Get ready for a well-deserved pat on the back, and a hearty, “Well done!”

In addition to that, welcome to Luke’s heartwarmingly endearing introduction of two precious women: Martha and her sister Mary. As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, this delightful little story now brings us full circle in our discussion of the Return of the Seventy from their very first mission’s trip.

You might remember that while debriefing their by-all-accounts exuberantly successful experience, Jesus responded to the Seventy by alluding to this landmark event:

“Yes,” Jesus told the Seventy, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!” (Luke 10:18).

That statement opened up for us an entire discussion of exactly how Satan, this now-fallen angel and defeated foe, seeks to invade our lives with his nefarious influence. We shared with you then (Podcasts #151 and 152) six ways that we can slam that door to our lives shut to Satan’s influence in our lives.

In this podcast, we’ll now look at the other side of that proposition: How Satan seeks to slam that door to our lives shut to God’s influence in our lives.

Sadly, I must say that he — Satan — has been enormously successful and effective in doing just that. I would venture to say that this is THE battle that we fight, and far-too-often lose, with the greatest frequency when it comes to spiritual warfare. Yet ironically, very few of us recognize this as a spiritual battle. And even fewer of us understand who is the architect of this strategy.

This is universal.

My friends, we have a lot to talk about.

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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Forcing the Devil to Flee

resistIt is, without a doubt, one of the most precious truths in all of the Bible. From the lips of Jesus Himself to the seventy upon their return from their first mission’s trip, in this PODCAST you will hear Him say,

“I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”

Fact: Satan is a fallen foe.

Fact: The devil has been defeated.

As we have discussed for the past two weeks, Fact: Satan is not losing the war; he has already lost it.

There is a day coming, sooner rather than later, when in the words of John,

“The devil who deceived them (will be) thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20).

There is a day coming, sooner rather than later, when at the mere mention of Jesus’ name,

“every knee will bow (including the devil and every one of his demonic minions)… and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2).

The day has already come when, in the words of James,

“the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror,” (James 2).

So yes, Satan IS a fallen foe. The devil IS — right now, in real time — a thoroughly defeated foe.

Consequently, there is a verse. Or more accurately, a part of a verse. A half of a verse. One that is buried in the very back of the Bible. In the Apostle John’s first letter, chapter 4. Fourteen words (in the NASB) to be exact.

One sentence we will now highlight and underscore and amplify. A precious truth that perfectly frames any discussion of spiritual warfare and our vulnerability to what Paul described as

“all the schemes, strategies, and deceits of the devil.”

A fundamental fact of our faith that you will now hear, and cherish, in this PODCAST.

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God bless you richly as you listen.

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A Cup of Cold (Refreshing, Thirst-Quenching, Life-Giving) Water

platesThis is going to be So.Much.Fun for me. (And for you, I hope!) So indulge me here, because I LOVE this stuff.

Look carefully and you might see my bemused smile on my face! It is just so comical to me how easily we take what Jesus made so simple, only to make it so insufferably complicated.

And to be perfectly honest with you, I am awestruck. That’s the tone with which I want to teach this PODCAST’s passage.

I am awestruck at Jesus’ ability to say so much in so little, so many thoughts communicated in so few words. All of which so practical, helpful, relevant, refreshing, and inspiring to us today.

Let me set it up like this: You know the guy in the circus with the hundred plates spinning on a hundred poles? OK. So here’s my question: What does that picture of a hundred plates spinning high atop a hundred poles have to do with this portrait that Jesus paints here in Matthew 10?

The simple, uncomplicated picture of giving someone who is thirsty a cup of cold water? A picture, BTW, that forms the conclusion to Jesus’ training manual for ministry. The ministry manual that we have been studying for lo these eleven weeks or so. The Ministry Manual that Jesus gave to His apostles to prepare them for their very first missions trip.

What do spinning plates have to do with a cup of cold water? As you are about to hear, Everything. Everything.

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God bless you as you listen!

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From Crash and Burn to Rise and Shine (An Epic Tale of Gracious-Filled Redemption)

roosterIt was without a doubt the absolute worst day of Peter’s long and storied and challenging life. As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we’re talking about one particular Saturday — the day after the crucifixion.

The day after Peter had denied Jesus three times before Jesus’ accusers. The Saturday before the very first Easter Sunday.

And since for the precious and beloved people at Safe Haven, I happened to give this message on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Thus, we would do well to consider exactly what was going on and why during that singularly fateful day.

A very dark day in otherwise dazzling life of Peter.

You talk about an epic fail, a spectacular fall from grace, a stunningly unpredictable turn of events, and crash and burn of mind-numbing proportions… Here’s a quick thumbnail of how Peter’s not-so-Good-Friday developed, leading up to his Horribly-Bad-Saturday before Easter.

A day Peter no doubt spent cowering in a corner…

  • Disgusted by the arrest of his rabbi;
  • Devastated by execution of his hero, mentor, friend;
  • Demoralized by the death of his dream of freedom from the oppressions of Romans;

A man whose faith was now in a free-fall. If there was any faith left in the man to fall.

The week leading up to Peter’s Not-So-Good-Friday and Horribly-Bad-Saturday began the Sunday before, Palm Sunday, with the event we commonly call the Triumphal Entry.

Jerusalem swelled to overflowing by the multiplied thousands upon thousands of pilgrims streaming into the Holy City in preparation for Passover. Every person in the place was there in commemoration of the Israelites’ deliverance from four hundred grueling years of oppression by the Egyptians, AND in feverish anticipation of what they hoped and prayed was their imminent deliverance from the brutal, barbaric, and oh.so.bloody occupation by the Romans.

Messianic fervor was always at its highest in the week leading up to Passover. You can understand why. Freedom was in the air.

But in this podcast, I don’t want you merely to understand why. I want you to feel why.

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God bless you as you listen.

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Oh What Might Have Been…

CentsTruer words were never spoken. It is an axiom of life. An undeniable reality that is obvious on its face:

You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube.

Now what in the world does toothpaste have to do with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 10, you ask? Everything, my friends. Everything.

For the fact of the matter is that there are some things in this world of ours which, once they are done, there’s no going back. Which is so ironically true about the passage in this PODCAST.

I suppose on the one hand, one could ask: Then why even discuss this? If indeed it is how it is… If it’s how the game is played today… If it’s how the game has been played for years… If it’s not going to change… Not by you. Not by me. Not by anyone…

Then why even discuss this?

Because on the other hand Matthew 10:8 IS in the Bible. Because Jesus did indeed say this. Because Matthew did indeed include this in his Gospel masterpiece. Because these ARE the words of Jesus. So God obviously WANTS us to discuss this.

So despite the fact that I have no illusions about changing anything, the precious truth contained in this passage is well-worth our consideration and understanding. And the fact is, WE don’t have to play this game the way it’s always been played.

We can play by a whole different set of rules. Rules of Jesus’ own making.

As He sent out His disciples, Jesus clearly and unambiguously told His men six words that are paradigm-shattering in their impact. So let’s talk about these six words: What they meant to His followers then. More to the point, what they mean for us, His followers, today.

Or at least what it ought to mean to us today.

And as we do so, please permit me to speak in this podcast with a distinct tone of wistfulness in my voice and body language as we contemplate together what might have been… What might have been, if only our evangelical world had simply taken these words of Jesus seriously and applied in our churches consistently.

Oh, what might have been…

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God bless you as you listen.

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HAPPY LISTENING.

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“These were His Instructions:”

jesus_and_disciplesWe have come in this PODCAST to a monumentally significant section of Scripture.

And yet ironically one of the most ignored.

As we will learn over the next several weeks, here in Mark 6, and its much more complete parallel passage in Matthew 10, we read of something that was for Jesus enormously emotional, and for us incredibly instructional.

Emotional because of its context (Jesus’ compassion for people will shine ever so brightly against dark backdrop of His own rejection); instructional because of its content (that includes wonderfully practical principles we can readily apply).

There is no way for me to overestimate the value of the insights that we will discover together here as we sort of eavesdrop on Jesus as He prepares His men for ministry.

Just to give you a sneak peak of just some of the things that we will learn together as we dissect and digest this that we could call The Master’s Message to His Men, we will discover:

  • How Jesus wants His ministers — both then and now — to conduct their ministries;
  • How Jesus wants His present pastors to pastor;
  • What the template for any ministry that Jesus develops here in Matthew 10 actually looks like;
  • Where the lines of the ministry blueprint are drawn;
  • Jesus’ purpose statement for all future ministries;
  • Jesus’ own philosophy of ministry, and how it translates into our own ministry contexts today.

You could say that Jesus wrote the ministry manual that He intended each of us who dare to minister in His name to follow, and that Matthew 10 is that manual. A chapter of epic importance that was completely overlooked, and never-once-considered throughout my four years of Bible college, three years of seminary, and five years completing a doctoral program.

#Never.Mentioned.Once.

I cannot help but to wonder how different the church landscape would look today if we actually taught future pastors what Jesus taught His men. Jesus planted here in Matthew 10 the seeds of ministry principles that will come to full bloom in rest of New Testament. In short, how we view the ministry and discharge our own ministries begins right here.

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HAPPY LISTENING.

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Breaking News

My beloved little Safe Haven family is really going through it right now. In a word, we are being broken.

To focus that just a bit, let me say that I am amazed at the significant struggles and overwhelming challenges that some of our precious people are experiencing — painful loses; seemingly senseless disappointments; literally excruciating physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges that defy explanation. Storm clouds are billowing. I cannot help but to imagine the reasons why.

In talking to each of these individuals on multiple occasions, they are understandably wrestling with it all, yet all the while demonstrating a firm-if-sometimes-faltering faith in God’s good plans that leaves me in awe.

I know, I know, I know that God never breaks His people without some amazing purposes behind His breaking. Some of our dear Safe Haven family members are being broken — No doubt about that! — but to what good purposes only time will tell. (Emphasis upon that hope-filled word, “will.”) The stories are just now unfolding. Stories that will be told. Stories of God’s abiding grace and peace. Stories of God’s sustaining strength and power. Stories of how God will profoundly touch the world through the profound pain of my friends. Stories that will illustrate the unbreakable law of nature: We can’t enjoy a shimmering rainbow without some falling rain.

rainbow

I also know that as God breaks my friends individually, He is also breaking Safe Haven collectively. He is breaking us as we share in these burdens together. A safe haven indeed — an unpretentious cadre of committed Christ-followers who desperately love Him and relentlessly love each other despite the unexpected trials and tribulations that life throws our way. It will be amazing, in the days and weeks ahead, to see not only what purposes lie behind God breaking certain individuals, but what purposes lie behind His breaking our family as a whole.

In the mean time, I have the unspeakable privilege of walking through these storms with some pretty special people whom I love with all my heart. It’s times like these that I am so incredibly thankful that God gave me the priceless privilege of being their pastor. But more than that, to be their friend.

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What the World (and the Church) [So Desperately] Needs Now…

puppy-fawn_thumbI’ll just say this: If you were ever going to listen to one Jesus in HD PODCAST, please, please, please listen to this one.

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HAPPY LISTENING!!!

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An Inconvenient Truth for Every Church Member/Attender to Consider!

broken-churchYesterday I posted this rather brief, yet complementary (to Rick Warren) and self-disclosing (since my highlighting this one quote out of an entire sermon did not come out of a vacuum) statement on my Facebook Timeline:

Rick Warren rocked it today @R13 conference. “The average Pastor leaves because of 7 people.” Woe to those who run out their pastors.

The response in terms of both “Likes” and “Shares” and comments took me completely by surprise.

Sadly, Warren’s observation resonated with a whole lot of people.

So with that in mind, allow me, ever-so-briefly, to pull back the curtain and let rank-and-file church members in on a dirty little secret — an inconvenient truth that not too many worship service attendees know, but one that every pastor without exception fully and completely and sadly understands.

At first blush, one might be tempted to think, “7 people? How can only 7 people (on average) commandeer an entire congregation?” 

Well, before I answer that, let me assure you that Warren’s observation is spot-on. I’ve been devastated by two churches, both times because of the influence of — yes, it’s true — only 7 people.

Add to that the fact that within the last few weeks, I spoke to a now-former pastor of a mega-church who was kicked to the curb by the negative influence of — Are you ready? — a grand total of only 3 families. Do the math. We’re talking 6 adults out of a congregation of some three thousand, who effectively and systematically spread such malicious gossip about my friend to the masses that he could no longer minister effectively in that church.

How does it happen? you ask.

Here’s how. The inconvenient truth:

Those who oppose their pastors may be small in number, but they are free to spread their discontent about the leadership to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen.

Not only that, but they are free to name names. They are free to level any accusation that they want with impunity. They are free to spread outright lies. They can twist the truth and shade it to their advantage. Or they can tell the truth out of context, creating out of the truth a totally false reality. It doesn’t matter which tactic they employ. The results are the same. The damage caused is far-too-often irrevocable.

Now, here’s where we pastors are sitting ducks, defenselessly so. 

We refuse to lower ourselves to that level. We strive to stay above the fray. We do not name names. We do not traffic in malicious gossip. We take the high-road.

Simply put, they are free to say anything that they want to about us, while we refuse to return evil for evil, and therefore we say nothing. We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

We refuse to discredit our critics, even as they work overtime to discredit us. We do not respond to gossip with gossip. We do not engage in a he-said, he-said defense of ourselves. We do not tell our side of the story. We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

We do none of that because 1. It would be sin to do so; and 2. It wouldn’t do any good anyway because such self-defensive measures only intensify the conflict, leading to endless meetings producing conflicting/contradictory/confusing information. Congregational food-fights never lead to any positive or productive outcomes. And frankly, to engage in such worldly tactics is beneath the office of Pastor.

We can’t. We don’t. We won’t.

Look, not to put a personal spin on this by making this all about me, but only so that you know that I know where so many pastors are coming from. Much to my everlasting sorrow, there are people in my community (perhaps even some who will read this blog) who believe that I am fundamentally evil. They turn away from me when they see me coming down the aisle in WalMart. They warn other Christ-followers about me. In some cases, bad reports about me have been spread by individuals who have never even met me!

Why do you think that Jesus said,

A prophet is not without honor except in his own town…

Jesus knew something about being on the receiving end of malicious gossip. And He, in response, said nothing.

Neither do we.

God is our defense. And I’m OK with that. God takes care of His own. And that’s fine by me. He has, and He will.

But the devastation caused to the innocent bystanders — in churches of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands — is incalculable. Not to mention the damage to countless pastors, many of whom have left the ministry. This because the viciousness of a few (an average of only 7) cost them far too much in terms of their families and/or their health. Men and women who just wanted to serve God and love their people.

Yes, as I posted yesterday on Facebook, so say I now…

Woe to those who run out their pastors.

So what’s the answer? 

First: STOP LISTENING. Gossip is gossip, whether you are on the telling end, or the hearing end. Both the gossiper and gossipee is equally guilty before God for all of the damage done by the gossip.

The next time someone approaches you with a complaint about a pastor, humbly, graciously, lovingly, but firmly tell them to SHUT THE HECK UP!!! And then calmly walk away.

HAVE NOTHING TO DO with those who traffic in malicious gossip. Is that too strong for you? Then ponder this niggling little point: If they gossip about the pastor, what makes you think they won’t one day gossip about you???

I mean, look… Silly me… I thought church was about worshipping God. When did it become about finding fault with one another? Finding fault with our pastors?

How can we keep our eyes focused on God when we are looking for the faults in others? How can we keep our ears attuned to God’s Word when we give an ear to other peoples’ gossiping words? Especially about the pastor, the one tasked with teaching us God’s Word?

This is not complicated, my friends.

Second: PRAY FOR YOUR PASTORS. We’re just human. No one of us ever claims perfection. (If we did, you should run for the hills!)

Please. I beg you. Let us be imperfect. Let us lead from weakness.

Let us in our brokenness help to heal your brokenness. And when we do need breaking, trust me when I say that God is perfectly capable of breaking us without others lending Him a helping hand.

You know, it wasn’t long after I was thrown under the proverbial church bus that I stumbled into a friend’s church on a Sunday morning, and literally broke down and wept. Know why? Because the pastor of that church said this to his congregation:

You just love me, and are thankful I’m here.

I sobbed because that’s all I (or any pastor) has ever wanted. Just to be loved, and for the people to be thankful that we are here.

I really don’t think that’s setting the bar very high. Do you?

Finally: If you just can’t bring yourself to support your pastor, QUIETLY walk away. Don’t pitch a fit. Don’t raise a ruckus. Don’t devastate a church by sowing seeds of division within the church. If asked, just simply and quietly tell your friends that you are being led to worship elsewhere, period. Nothing else needs to be said.

Want to hear a lie? I mean a devilish lie. Straight from the pit of Hell itself. A lie that goes like this…

Pastors come and go, but this is my church.

Ummm, excuse me. Your church? I thought it was Jesus’ church. If it is Jesus’ church, it’s His call, and only His call, as to if or when He removes a pastor. Not yours! And certainly not the self-appointed seven.

So let Jesus be the head of His church. And if you are uncomfortable with the way Jesus is leading His church, QUIETLY find another one.

“Wow,” you might now be thinking. “You sound so angry.” To which I say, “I don’t sound angry. I am angry.” 

I am angry about all of the many pastors who once filled pulpits who are now sitting on the sidelines, this because of an average of only 7 sinning people in those churches.

I am angry about all of the “innocent” people who once went to church and loved it. But today, they will not darken the door of a church because of all of the in-fighting caused by an average of only 7 ungodly people within those churches.

I am angry about the many hurting people in our communities who will never turn to the churches in their communities for their longed-for answers. But why would they? Not when we can’t even keep our church-houses in order. All because of an average of only 7 self-focused people inside of those churches.

Listen. Don’t you worry about me being angry. Worry far more about God being angry. Because He is.

So, yeah. My Facebook post — or more accurately, Rick Warren’s astute observation — sure did resonate with a lot of people.

I am just oh-so-thankful for God’s gift of grace in my life, a humble little fellowship of loving, affirming, committed Christ-followers called The Safe Haven. A redemptive community where they just love me and are thankful that I’m here.

I pray that every pastor is as blessed as me.

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