Sunday Morning Struggle

You may look at the life of a pastor and think, “I bet he can’t wait to get to church on Sunday mornings.” Over the years, that has been true on some Sunday mornings. On others, it has been a struggle.

Today, it’s a struggle. Do understand that I am not currently pastoring a church and do not have a place to preach this morning, so it would be extremely easy to stay home. A few might notice my absence.

I say all that to let you know that pastors struggle just like everyone else. There are times we want to lay out of church. We have seasons when we just can’t seem to pray. We have times when we don’t pick up a Bible for a while. We grow tired of some of the things we see and become discouraged like everyone else.

This is not a justification for disobedience. I want to use this as an encouragement to get back up. Call on those you know who truly walk with God. Turn on some preaching or worship music and fight the devil.

Here is one thing I’ve learned. When all hell comes against me on a Sunday morning (you know those days when everything goes wrong in an attempt to get the kids ready and get to worship on time), I may get there with a rotten attitude but I do not leave the same.

I have heard many preachers talk about God changing your “want to”. The last time I checked, the Bible talks about the struggle between flesh and spirit. Paul said in Romans 7 that he did the things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do the things he wanted to do. Sometimes we must force ourselves to do the right thing. The easy way is most often not God’s way.

The struggle is real. So is the One who gives you victory. Fight the good fight of faith! Walk in victory even when you don’t think it’s possible. The rewards will be worth the effort.

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The Salesman Pastor

Pastors are faced with many pressures and temptations. One of those is to build a monument to self rather than investing in the salvation and spiritual development of people. Riley masterfully tells a story that I think everyone should read, pastor or not. The lessons apply across the board as many of us battle with the same root issue.

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Pete was a car salesman for many years. He learned from his father all the ways to rope people in, how to make something old and beat-up look desirable and affordable, and how to paste on a friendly trustworthy smile. The result, people liked Pete, no one felt like they were buying junk but that they were truly getting a good deal. In their eyes Pete was their friend, he was on their side and would do anything to help his customers out.

Strange as it may seem, one of his customers actually did become his friend. Pete was drawn to something in this man that he did not possess, if only he knew what that was. This man soon invited Pete to church, his church happened to be the largest one in town, a megachurch that Pete had often marveled at on his way to work. Pete sat open-mouthed…

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The New Generation

Recently, I became addicted to Twitter. I have had an account for several years, but I finally decided to be a little more active. My discoveries have been encouraging.

Many younger people are immediately labeled as snowflakes who buy into this socialistic idea that everyone deserves free everything at the expense of someone else. I have discovered that many of our high school and college students who post on Twitter have a much better handle on reality than many of our politicians. I won’t say any more about that.

Another discovery is that these young men and women possess a deep love for Christ. I’m not saying everyone that age does, but I am encountering many who are passionate about worship and service. They don’t take Christianity lightly. They want to know the power of His resurrection AND the fellowship of His sufferings. They are not afraid to take a stand and get slammed on a public platform. If this doesn’t encourage you, you may want to go to a doctor or check up on your salvation.

I was disturbed for several years because of the little yearning I saw for God among our younger generation. There is a revival spreading. They don’t want religion. They want the power of the Holy Spirit. They want authentic Christian community.

So before you go labeling everyone, look around. You won’t have to look hard for a generation whose heart beats after God.

Toxic Masculinity

There has been much controversy surrounding the Gillette commercial that targeted things such as bullying and toxic masculinity. After I read about the uproar, I decided to watch the commercial to see what was so bad about it. You will both agree and disagree with me on this if you hang on to the end of this post. I did not see where they were attempting to de-masculinize men but rather to encourage men to be a balance of what the world considers manly and the softer side that doesn’t always have to prove masculinity. If Gillette’s intention was de-masculinization, shame on them! I can see where many would interpret the commercial as more controversial because of the push toward gender neutrality and transgenderism.

If you disagree with me on that, I think you will agree with the rest of this post (if you are a conservative). There is nothing wrong with masculinity. God created male and female. He designed each to fulfill certain roles. Some personalities of each sex can be stronger than the other at times, but God physically created them differently. God wired me to love the femininity and nurturing nature of a lady. Many men would agree with me on this. I want to make it clear than God made no mistake creating people as they are. Unfortunately, there are abnormalities with people at birth. This is the result of living in a sin-cursed world. Nonetheless, God created us uniquely.

Back to the subject of masculinity. I do believe there are ideas of masculinity that are toxic. Beating your wife does not make you more of a man. Wearing cowboy boots and having a big belt buckle does not make a man more masculine. Having multiple sex partners does not a man make. This is toxic.

Real masculinity does have some innate traits. Men, when functioning in a healthy manner, tend to protect and be more aggressive. I’m not talking about beating up people. They will protect those they love. They will work hard. Women will do the same in the way God designed them. We should celebrate the differences between men and women. I don’t know how I would do if my wife were the same as I am.

With this said, let’s embrace the way GOD designed it rather than conform to what society is trying to re-create.

A Very Honest Post About Self-Doubt

Today, I had lunch with a pastor who has been one of my greatest friends and mentors for nearly a decade. We meet periodically for encouragement. He and I both know what it is like to walk through the valley of depression. The commonalities have helped us connect from very early in our working relationship when we served together in the ministry that brought me to the area.

After we talked about how this season beats us up with depression along with other topics, I began to share my heart about self-doubt. For several years, I had many affirm my call to ministry and my gifts. I quickly learned when I took my first pastorate that some will be quick to highlight your weaknesses and make you feel like a failure. Throw a failed marriage and the need to reconstruct my entire life into the mix. That will lead you to think that maybe God is done with you. I asked this pastor, “Did I get this thing wrong? Do I really suck at preaching and music and they’re not telling me? Is there a reason why I’m hardly preaching right now? Has my divorce or something else tarnished me?” (This blog is called “Honest Thoughts from a Pastor”, so please forgive me for using the word “suck”. I’m being honest here.)

I know some of you who are reading have struggled with self-doubt. Do I know God called me before I surrendered in 1997? Yes! Did I believe the lie that the enemy was throwing my way that my best days are over? I did. I believe some of you have too. You think for one reason or another that you are beyond God’s use.

This pastor reminded me of the reality of spiritual warfare. In his over 30 years of pastoring, he has seen it. He testified to the increased intensity of the warfare. I’m a younger guy in ministry, but I have seen it too. The gospel is being compromised and distorted. Professing Christians are more deceived and more hateful than ever. The pressure to cater ministry to a crowd rather than to glorify the Christ is stronger than ever. The battle is raging!

You and I must remember that self-doubt is a tool of the devil. He wants to paralyze us because he knows the kingdom potential we have. Too many Christians aren’t enduring because they hear this twisted version of the truth that tells them the Christian life will be sunshine and lollipops, Lamborghinis on demand, and whatever your faith can create. They don’t tell you that opposition and persecution will come.

Get your battle gear on! This isn’t for wimps. Ephesians 6 lays out the equipment God has given us for victory. Put it on and let’s fight the good fight of faith together! Remember this – BORN AGAIN BELIEVERS ARE ON THE SAME TEAM! LET’S ACT LIKE IT!

Hypo-Christians

A thought just occurred to me a few minutes ago, so I grabbed my phone, opened the WordPress app, and here I go. The term “hypo-Christians” came to mind after thinking about two similar words – hypocrite and hypochondriac. Let’s dissect these words.

The prefix hypo means “beneath, below, or less than normal” according to dictionary.com. The word hypocrite comes from the words which means “under decide or under judge”. In other words, hypocrites play a part while under judging others while thinking their judgment is accurate. Here is the mid 17th century definition of hypochondria: “via late Latin from Greek hupokhondria, denoting the soft body area below the ribs, from hupo ‘under’ + khondros ‘sternal cartilage’. The term was first used to denote a form of melancholy that was thought to arise from the liver and spleen.” Those who are hypochondriacs believe they are suffering from serious illness and are quick to tell you.

“Hypo-Christians” have a serious illness. They are under the impression that their good performance for others will convince others of their spirituality while they cannot fool God. They perform for an audience of many while forgetting they are only predominately accountable to the Audience of One. Christ is the righteous Judge.

Jesus made some pretty strong statements about “hypo-Christians”. In Matthew 15, he described these as drawing near to God with their mouths but their hearts were far from Him. They can talk a decent talk, but their hearts reveal the dirt of sin. These will be those who did a ton of things in Jesus’ name, only to hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” This is the saddest of all.

True Christianity comes when God’s Holy Spirit convicts sinners who respond in repentance and faith. Their actions flow from a changed heart. False Christianity plays a part while true Christianity flows from a life that has been changed.

If you are playing a part but have no sorrow over sin, something must change. Mere church attendance and impressive prayers won’t cut it. God knows those who are His. You can fool others, but you can’t fool Him.

Don’t Diss Your Past

I know you’re probably thinking, “I’m really gonna read this post since Matthew used the old word ‘diss’.” I never claimed to be the coolest, most happening guy in the world. Now on to the post.

Over the last few days, I have had tons of past memories come back. I’ve had way too much thinking time since I have only slept a few hours each night. These thoughts included old songs from worship services years ago and other ministry memories. Those memories led me down another road. I was reminded of how I have “dissed” my past. Yes, I have been in circles and experienced things I wish I had not in the church world. In my own pilgrimage through the accompanying emotions, I have made a lot of jokes about my ministry past that offended many people. My goal is never to offend, but I do realize that some people will defend something to the death if they feel that they or something important is being attacked. You have your rights as I do mine. Here are some things I learned through my difficulties for which I will not apologize:

  • I am no longer denominationally minded. I affiliated with a particular denomination for many years, but I am nondenominational and kingdom-minded now. The church I attended or serve is not my kingdom. It is a small part of God’s greater kingdom. I will not proclaim that Baptists, Wesleyans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, or any other denomination have it all together. Each has its issues. My focus will be Christ and helping people know Him.
  • I am no longer married to tradition. Tradition is great. We all have them, but they are a means, a vehicle. One may sing all hymns, another sings the latest and greatest, while a third group does both. I am not going to engage in bashing churches or pastors for what they wear or don’t wear, Bible versions, and song selections. Too many people have gotten discouraged by such debates and walked away from the faith. I don’t want that on my hands when I stand before the Lord Jesus.
  • I will unapologetically stand for many whom the institutional church has marginalized. While many are hurling stones, I want to be the one whom people say helped them see the love of Jesus and find victory over their sin rather than shame from those who love to condemn.
  • I will continue to be honest and authentic in a world where many professing Christians know how to fake the part. I spent too many years trying to conform because it was the thing to do. I am who I am – a sinner saved by grace who still struggles but strives to be like Jesus.

The experiences I had in the past were the means to get me where I am today. Those included toxic working environments, hateful church folks, loving church folks, critics, encouragers, affiliations of which I am proud and some of which I am ashamed. Such is life. It’s time to stop dissing and start accepting.

What thing in your past keeps you bitter? What ministry experience or relationship do you diss in efforts to cope with the pain? These are some serious things to consider. Keep dissing and you’ll bleed all over those who didn’t cut you.

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6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Dating Someone

Many people enjoy recreational dating. This post from Sarah T. reminds us that dating serves a biblical purpose, and that dating outside God’s plan has horrible repercussions.

God Strengthened Girl

Let’s face it: relationships? dating? All are quite confusing some way or another, especially when you find yourself in the conundrum of being asked out on a date. What do you do? What do you say? How do you know if this person is a good influence as a boyfriend/girlfriend? If you are wondering if you should say “yes,” or even “no,” to this proposal, read on to find six questions to ask yourself for beginning a relationship. x

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1. Does he/she love Jesus?

This is kind of an obvious question to ask, but you can’t deny that it’s often overlooked in the beginning of relationships. There are so many cases where someone claims to be a “Christian,” but their lifestyle doesn’t back that claim up. In reality, if a person actually loves Jesus, their lives will reflect that love. Do they love and respect others? Do they attend church…

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Make Yourself Do It!

During this time of year, I often deal with seasonal depression. Over the last few weeks, I have not had the desire to do the things that interest me most. This morning, I began catching up on blog reading (which I had to force myself to do).

Sometimes, we have to force ourselves to do what we enjoy. Once we do, we are glad we did. Although I had almost a month’s worth of blog posts to read, I began experiencing the joy of reading what others write, especially in relation to their spiritual growth.

Maybe you are like me. You don’t like being down, but you feel stuck in that seasonal funk. I know that you are tempted to isolate yourself. I do that all too well. Take that first step. Nothing that is of benefit is always easy. Push yourself and experience the joy and reward of doing what you enjoy.