If I Won

“What would I do with all of that money?” This was the question being discussed earlier this week as the Mega Millions jackpot swelled to over a billion dollars. Even those who didn’t play the lottery and had no intention of getting a ticket, had a bit of fun daydreaming out loud about what they would do with such an enormous amount of money.

Of course, money is not the answer to all of life’s problems, but let’s face reality; a sum of money like that could render many of life’s stresses innate. Certainly, there might be a few stresses that such a jackpot might create, but if one acts wisely and does not lose their head, I have a feeling those stresses would be manageable. At the very least, you would most likely move to the position of your family’s favorite relative!

I also found myself daydreaming about what I would do if I had been blessed with this overflow of money. No doubt, some of you would expect that my ideas should be nothing but charitable seeing that I am a pastor. (That begs the question why it should be any different for you if you are a disciple of Christ regardless of your calling within the family of God?) Of course, some of my thoughts drifted to the church I pastor which struggles financially. I also thought of many missionaries and relief organizations whom I would love to surprise with a huge gift… and if it could be done anonymously, all the better! A wise warning that I once heard given to preachers who find themselves being blessed with grand amounts of money was, “Give it away!” The admonition was not meant to say that a minister cannot be blessed financially, but that holding on to too much money can make one lose sight of the people one needs to reach and corrupt one’s mind to think more of the material than the eternal.

However, while I certainly had thoughts of things beyond myself, I also daydreamed of being able to give my wife the lifestyle I believe she deserves. You see, I truly view my wife as royalty. I very much wish I could grant her the life where she could wear gorgeous gowns and eat at fine restaurants every day. It made me smile to imagine being able to give her the life of a queen so that others could see her as I do. As I write this, however, it occurs to me that it may never be my place to exalt her to such splendor before others, but it will, one day, be the gift that her Heavenly Father bestows upon her when He glorifies all of His children.

That thought brings me to the real point of this post and the subject I wish to leave you contemplating. So, make sure you have a full cup of coffee in hand and consider this question the Lord Jesus Christ asked in Mark 8:36, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” What if you did win that entire jackpot? That money, if you were not foolish, would last you an entire lifetime… but it would only last your lifetime – however long or short it may be. Perhaps you could live the lifestyle of royalty in this life, but the billions will mean nothing in the eternal kingdom of God where it is the Lord alone who exalts His people to glory.

Consider this, one person walked away with the winnings of the Mega Millions while the rest of us were left in the same place we were before the jackpot became so large. Those were the odds. However, there is a 100% guarantee that every one of us will come to the end of this life. Our number, as it were, will eventually be called and we will draw our final breath in this mortal and temporary world. At that point, rich or poor or somewhere in between, our economic status will hold no more value than our self-assessment that we are good people. All that will matter at that moment is whether or not you, before departing your mortal life, have accepted the atonement of Jesus Christ for your sins and lived thereafter for Him. Money, or lack thereof, will not hold any amount of significance or influence before the throne of Him who made all things.

This is the contemplation to consider as you hold your coffee today; that God, being just and righteous, must judge sin and that no amount of good works that we do can make up for that sin. However, because of His love for us, God sent His own Son to pay the penalty for our sin so that, if we desire to accept His payment, God can justly forgive us our sin. He did this for you and for me because He truly does love us. That, my friends, is far better than any lottery winnings one could acquire (or more likely miss out on) in this life.

Until next week, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.

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We All Hurt

If you spend any time on social media you will most certainly find someone who is experiencing some sort of pain. It may be physical, but often it is an expression of emotional pain. Someone or some situation has hurt them deeply and the hurt is real.

We all hurt. I don’t believe anyone gets out of this life unscathed in some way and if you live long enough you will experience multiple seasons of hurt. Indeed, in our current society it is nigh impossible to get through a day without receiving some sort of hurt from someone. I believe the reason for that is two-fold: 1) People are easily offended these days. 2) People are easily offensive these days. Rudeness seems to be the dish of the day, every day, for some individuals. If you work in any type of customer service, you no doubt have a front row seat to this type of behavior on a regular basis.

We all hurt. However, as I intend to point out in this post, hurting is a two-lane street.

 

We All Hurt – Experiencing

Every one of us has been hurt by someone. The strike that wounds us may come intentionally or it may be unintentional, but it hurts regardless of the delivery motive. (There are other times when we are hurt because we perceive something absolutely incorrectly. However, that type of hurt is a topic for another time.) Dealing with hurt often becomes the struggle and I have observed that we tend to handle that hurt in the worst possible fashion.

When hurt by another, one might take to social media to vent. This seems to be the modus operandi of some married couples, promoting further sickness into their relationship. Other individuals gather friends around them so that they may lament the hurt that they feel at the hands of someone else, all with the secret hope that the assembled collective might invoke some aura of anger towards the culprit wherever he or she may happen by one of them.

The Lord Jesus Christ gave us steps to handle the hurt we receive from others and they can be found in Matthew 18:15-17. Interestingly, the first step Jesus gives is the one people typically disregard; Jesus said we should go to the person who hurt us and have a discussion (not a screaming match) with them alone and try to work it out. I am convinced that a majority of hurts could be healed over some conversation and coffee long before they become festering wounds in one’s soul. Since we all get hurt in this life and we should all expect to suffer hurt from time to time, it would likely be prudent to learn how to handle it in the most effective way.

 

We All Hurt – Causing

This is the side of hurt that often goes unconsidered; because we are human and will make mistakes, act selfishly, and are apt to take out our bad mood on innocent bystanders, we too will cause hurt to people. That’s right. People will hurt us, but we will hurt people.

Of course, we need to acknowledge that there are some people who simply enjoy hurting others. (I will address that in a future blog post.) However, I believe most people would rather not hurt other people. Typically, when we realize we have hurt someone, regardless of how it took place, we are acutely aware of our intentions. We understand that our motivations were not meant to inflict wounds and therefore we desire mercy and the benefit of the doubt from the one we hurt. What we fail to do, however, is make that same consideration for someone who has hurt us.

We can take an example from the use of high beams on the road at night. I am sure that everyone has, at least once or twice, inadvertently left their high beams on while another vehicle approaches in the opposing lane. That oncoming driver then flashes their beams at you and you sheepishly turn your beams off feeling bad for your mistake. However, when someone leaves their beams on while they are driving toward us… obviously I cannot speak for everyone, but my initial reaction is to assume they are thoughtless and purposely left their beams on for the sole intent of burning my eyes out of my sockets like the Nazis who gazed into the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Meanwhile the driver in the other car is most likely feeling sorry and foolish for his mistake as I rebuke their “selfishness” by flashing my beams at them.

The point being, we will all experience hurt in this life, but we also will all cause hurt in this life to others. So, it would likely be just as prudent to learn how to handle that in the most effective way, meaning; we need to learn to extend more mercy. While we sometimes live in the perspective that people in the world are out to hurt us, we should remember that in the eyes of another, we may be the person who is causing hurt. When we begin to realize that we are all flawed, we may be able to suffer less hurt and experience more coffee moments with friends and new acquaintances.

 

We all hurt, so let’s try to handle it with wisdom and grace.

Until next week, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.

Pastor Appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Of course, this is a recognition that is basically confined to the “church world”. If you don’t attend a church and have a pastor, such an occasion is probably not going to send you out to your local Hallmark store.

Let me begin by acknowledging that there is a problem built into the heart this blog post today. Because the subject matter is about Pastor Appreciation, this post will certainly carry the capacity to come off as self-serving. There is really nothing I can do to curb such a perception so, I will simply say that, although I will draw from a few of my own personal experiences, my intent is to provoke contemplation in your heart concerning your appreciation of your own pastor and proceed forward. I’m not writing this post as a fishing expedition for myself to acquire accolades, and if you know me well enough I think you know my heart. Besides, I’m not even sure most of my congregation reads this blog, so I have to chuckle at the idea of trying to garner attention this way.

Pastoring is a very unique vocation. I have served in our nation’s armed forces and have worked many secular jobs. Full-time ministry, I have found, has a distinctive set of stresses to it that I have not experienced in any other field. I’m not suggesting that it is worse than all others, only that it is unique. It would do me little good to try and explain it, however. It is one of those things one must experience over an extended period of time in order to appreciate it. I can offer this picture that I see pop up on social media from time to time that highlights some of the resultsof said stress:

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Only last month I read an article where a pastor committed suicide. He left behind of loving wife and several children. It broke my heart as I looked at their family picture and imagined what brought this pastor so low and why he felt so hopeless and alone.

I realize that people often have no idea what pastors go through, because one of the jobs of a pastor is to help people go through tough times. Many do not think that the pastor has tough times too. In addition to that, few in the congregation realize what they do to their pastors sometimes. But this is really the point of my post today; to help us all consider that pastors are human beings too. The Book of Hebrews 13:17 reads, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

I had a conversation with a man once, who attended a different church in the area I was pastoring in. He told me, in a rather overconfident attitude, “I could do what my pastor does. I’ve done public speaking on the scriptures before. I just couldn’t deal with the people.” I thought to myself, “Well then, sir, you could not do what your pastor does.” Pastoring is far more than preaching a sermon every Sunday. It is about the people! It would be like making the statement, “I could do what a shepherd does so long as I don’t have to tend any sheep.”

How can one show appreciation for one’s pastor? I’m glad you asked. Let me give you a few things to contemplate:

Pray for Your Pastor

Your pastor stands in the gap and takes the brunt of spiritual attacks against the church in order to protect the flock. Jesus pointed out in Matthew 26:31 that if the shepherd is struck the sheep will be scattered. The pastor and pastoral family need your continual prayer support.

 Support and Encourage Your Pastor

Your pastor may not always do things the way you would like, but the pastor holds the responsibility and is the one who will give an account to God. Your pastor must look out for the whole of the church body which means an individual will not always get their way.

I remember one particularly hectic week where I had several crises in people’s families to help navigate and a couple of hospital visits to make at different hospitals which were an hour apart from each other. I had barely seen my family in the past several days. A moment of respite came one evening where a window of time opened up for my family and I to have a light dinner together before heading off to run services for Wednesday night at church. We drove to our local Subway and sat down to take a breather and catch up.

Not long into our meal together, two members of our church walked in. We greeted each other warmly, but the smiles were quickly wiped away when the one member quipped right in front of my children, “Ya know, Pastor, my wife and I were talking the other day, and we’re kind of disappointed that you don’t come around and visit us enough.” I sat there absolutely speechless. Now, this individual had no idea what my week had been like or what any of my weeks were like, but in a moment when he could have offered a word of encouragement or appreciation (or quite frankly have said nothing at all) he chose to tell me, in front of my family who hadn’t seen much of me as of late, how he felt I was not doing my job. Unfortunately, this type of thing is not an uncommon occurrence. Speak life and support into your pastor when you have the chance.

 Love Your Pastor’s Family

While most good pastors do their best to shield their children from the stresses of ministry, you can count on ministry stress being experienced by the entire family even in their very home. Love your pastoral family with encouragement and grace, especially when it comes to the kids. The children deal with enough without having unrealistic expectations placed on them. Remember, the family uprooted their entire life to come serve you.

I know this post has primarily focused on the ugly side of ministry. I don’t want to give the impression that all is doom and gloom. The rewards of full-time ministry are phenomenal. I consider myself privileged to be a part of so many lives over the years. It warms my heart to see the growth in people’s families and lives as they draw near to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have witnessed so many positive things! However, those great results are not without their cost. So, bless your pastor and support your pastoral family as often as you have opportunity. As Hebrews 13:17 points out, a healthy, well supported, and blessed pastoral family works towards your benefit as well.

Until next week, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.

Being Pinned

Have you ever felt like a bowling pin? Like you are stood up only so you can be immediately knocked right back down again? You are plowed over by some circumstance and you are hurt, but you pick yourself up again ready to press ahead and before you even get the dust brushed off of you – POW – you are bowled down once more. You cry out that you can’t take anymore, but as you are set up upon your feet again – POW – another blow lays you flat.

Let me be clear that I am referring to things out of one’s control. I am not talking about consequences incurred by continually making bad choices. In those cases, the individual is bowling themselves over. They are administering self-inflicted blows reminiscent of Jim Carrey’s character in Liar Liar beating himself up in the restroom. The scenarios I’m writing about are ones where circumstances are really out of our hands.

When one enters a season of life where the blows won’t seem to stop, one wonders how long it will be before they break. Of course, there are all manner of songs encouraging us to get back up and keep fighting and plenty of motivational posters to inspire one to never give up and never surrender. (Admit it. You just read the last part of that line in Tim Allen’s voice.) If life’s pummeling goes on long enough, you will most likely have someone utter the absolutely unbiblical idea that, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I cringe every time I hear that.

Now, the Scriptures do give us plenty of encouragements to not give up, but instead to place our trust in God. Psalm 34:19 – Manare the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Proverbs 24:16 – “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity.” Psalm 37:23-24 – “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.” As a pastor, I can tell you that those truths are easy to preach, but they are difficult to live through.

One thing I have noticed, in the Bible and through life experience, is when one is following God’s path, there will almost always be resistance along the way. Many people get the incorrect notion that if they are following God’s direction, the path will be easy. One merely needs to look at Israel’s journey through the wilderness to prove that idea to be false. Of course, Israel often rebelled and brought consequences upon their own heads, but there were also times that they were literally following God as He led them and they would come upon difficulties. An individual once made the observation that, following Jesus is much like a video game; it’s a good bet that you are heading in the right direction if you are running into resistance.

If you are feeling like a bowling pin today, I will not offer some cliché phrase promising sunshine and rainbows if you just believe in yourself. However, if you have been seeking God and have truly asked Him to direct you upon His chosen path for this season of your life (not just a good path of your choosing) and you are experiencing hit after hit after hit, don’t immediately assume you have veered out of God’s will. I’m not going to tell you to hang in there. I’m merely going to ask you to contemplate what I just wrote and make your decision from there… after at least one savored cup of coffee of course.

Until next week, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.