I sit here, reflecting and praying, as I end this day and prepare for leading worship in the morning. A few songs about the name of Jesus began to play through my mind. Then I began to think about the power in the name of Jesus.
I must first state that the name of Jesus is not a magic word for us to use to get what we want. Early in my Christian life, I listened to multiple preachers and teachers of God’s Word. Some of those were spreading a teaching that a believer could use the name of Jesus, along with the right amount of faith, and demand God give them healing, money, a girlfriend, or whatever they desired. While one verse of Scripture says that we will receive whatever we ask in the name of Jesus, Scripture also says that we must ask in the will of God. We cannot take one verse and run with it. We must compare Scripture with Scripture.
There is one verse that resounds in my mind about the power of the name of Jesus. It is one that is wonderful to some and scary for others. Philippians 2:10-11 says, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Think about it – EVERY KNEE WILL BOW – some willingly and some wishing they have done so before it was too late. That is a sobering reality!
The name of Jesus is to be exalted because this Jesus is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is worthy of our worship! He is not a magic genie, but He is the One who gave His life for our sins. In response, we give our lives back to Him as on offering. May we no longer throw the name of Jesus around but give it reverence for our Lord and Master.
One of the most discouraging times for me as a Pastor, specifically as a church planter, was the Summer. In the church plant, most everything went on hold because of vacations, etc. On top of that, the second Summer of the church plant was full of uncertainty. We went a month and a half without an official meeting place and experienced one of the craziest situations I have ever seen. Needless to say, I was discouraged, depleted, and depressed. I tried to be positive, but my outward positivity could not cover my inner struggle.
I don’t want any pastor to be where I was emotionally. I know have walked through so much worse. If you are a pastor, the Summer slump doesn’t have to put you into a place of darkness. You don’t have to walk this alone. Many pastors don’t have a confidant or anyone they feel they can trust. If I can encourage you or your pastor, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love reading the satirical articles from “The Babylon Bee”. They depict a humorous and often true side of church life. A recent article influenced this thought. There are people in churches and every place who complain. Here are some thoughts about complainers.
Complainers are often miserable people. The Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” A heart full of negativity will speak negativity.
Complainers infect the atmosphere. They spread negativity everywhere they go. Others who must be around them dread their arrival because they know the poison that they bring. Don’t expect morale to be high where complaining is prominent.
Complainers are quick to point out problems but rarely if ever have solutions. If they have solutions, they will not participate in being a part of the solution.
Complainers thrive in the company of other complainers. They also feed off those who eagerly listen, even if they do not join them in complaining. Speak positivity and watch a complainer wilt.
The Bible calls us to do things without murmuring and complaining (Philippians 2:14). May we choose to be a shining light in the darkness rather than someone who extinguishes the flame.
“Tales from the Dark Side” was a television program many years ago, but this post has nothing to do with the program. While many think that being a pastor is glitzy and glamorous with people who only work 1-2 days per week, that is far from the truth. It can be one of the loneliest vocations. I was blessed to have some wonderful friends in ministry who helped see me through some rough times, but not everyone has that system. What makes it so rough?
Other pastors can be competitive and will step all over you to “get to the top”. What they don’t realize is they will answer to God for caring more about building a personal kingdom that God’s kingdom.
Other pastors can be quick to condemn those who are struggling. I wept when I received a message from a man in my first church who was looking for a new place to worship. He said, “Matthew, no one preaches restoration like you do.” I could not comprehend this, but I have seen it many times and wish I could unsee it.
Other pastors can be quick to betray the confidence of another pastor in the form of a prayer request. So many people use the hypocrisy of concern to cover gossip.
Other pastors can often be fair-weather friends. They will hang out with you if it benefits them, but dare not ever need them because they may become too busy for someone who cannot benefit them.
What does this cause? Depression, isolation, and sometimes suicide. If you are reading this, be a blessing to a pastor. If you are a pastor who is reading this, there are still some great people out there who can be a safe place for you to turn. May this be a reminder that the church does not need to be cut-throat like the corporate world. It’s time for the Christian community to be what Christ called it to be.
If you’re older, you know the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses”. Later, it became the Kardashians. At my stage of life, it is neither. When your income is small, keeping up with what others have is not an option. Guess what I try to keep up with now? The kids!!!!
When I say I’m trying to keep up with the kids, I’m not talking about the energy. I’ve given up on that one, but I take a stab at it. I’m talking about trying to keep up with trends, new slang, etc. I am now being educated on what “the tea” is and where I can find “the merch”. Is there hope for this 38 year old dad? I would love to hear your parenting comments. Let’s laugh (or cry) together.
For the last several Sundays, I have been leading worship in a traditionally blended extension of a church in our area. The service I’m involved in is at 9:30, while the main campus (which is right across the parking lot) has services both at 9:30 and 11:00. After we were done, I slipped across the parking lot for the 11:00 service. The worship team opened with a song I had never heard until Wednesday night’s rehearsal. The song is “Fill This Place” by Red Rocks Worship. The lyrics reminded me of the desperation and the longing we should possess for God’s presence and power in our lives.
My mind goes quickly to two Old Testament accounts. The first is Jacob. He was wrestling with what some consider to be the pre-incarnate Christ. Jacob made a powerful statement – “I will not let go until you bless me.” The second account is in Exodus when Moses told God he would not go unless God would go with him.
Do we possess this desperation? Do we realize our desperation need for God outside of saving our souls? Do we realize we need Him at work, at home, at the ballpark, and everywhere we go?
Friends, we will not see a mighty move of God is we don’t cry out. Lost souls are depending on us. Wayward family and friends are depending on us. Church leaders and countless others are depending on us. Will we let them down, and will we pray and cry out until we see God move?
In over 20 years of ministry, I have had the opportunity to walk into many churches. I have served on staff in several, ministered in several outside of those, and visited some while in between ministries. I have noticed some to be quite plastic.
You may ask what plastic church is. These are churches where people come to worship without being real. They don’t share their burdens. They show up and fake like everything is okay because authentic community is not present. This is a sad situation. I have been criticized for being too real, but I will gladly accept the criticism because I want others to know that I am a safe place to come for advice or just a listening ear.
Many of us have heard that a church is meant to be a hospital for sinners rather than a hotel for saints. I have experienced that authentic community where it’s safe to be jacked up and messy. I don’t want anything else.
If you are a pastor and your church is plastic, I pray God will make a way for you to lead toward authenticity. This applies to whatever area you may lead. You and I can lead in atmosphere change. If you are in a plastic church, start praying for the plastic to become clay that can be shaped by the Potter’s hand.
For the first ten years of my life, I really questioned my purpose. I was an overweight boy with horrible self-esteem. I tried several things in order to be liked by my peers. Guess what?!? They didn’t work. I tried playing after school basketball, and I was horrible. Outside of knowing what the basketball looked like and where it should go, nothing else computed. It was finally during my fifth grade year that I developed a love for music and attempted to play a few instruments. I quickly excelled and found something I could well. Later, I would see that I was to use this God-given gift to glorify Him.
Many, like me in my childhood, focus on what they cannot do. I know I’ll never be a Calvin Klein model, but I can allow Jesus Christ to shine through me. I will never be like a lot of the popular preachers on television, but God will still use His Word spoken through me. I will never be athletic, but I can run the race of the Christian life well.
Each of you has been given something you can use to the glory of God. You may look at it as pathetic or useless, but God does not. Remember the boy with the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish? He offered this tiny amount to 5,000 plus people. The math doesn’t compute. But God works differently! He multiplies our meager resources and does HUGE things!
Before you begin to criticize yourself, stop yourself and offer what you have to God. I will guarantee He will multiply it. You may not see the benefits on this side of Heaven, but there will be eternal rewards for your obedience and faithfulness. Just surrender and watch God do the unimaginable.
If you are as old as I am, you may have read the title “God Is In Control” and Twila Paris’ song by the same title began playing in your head. My younger audience will probably have to Google her name and attempt to find some of her songs on YouTube. She was a popular Christian singer when a lot of others you may not recognize were popular too. I think the only one from that era who remains popular is Michael W. Smith. Now on to what’s on my heart tonight…
Without going into a lot of detail, there are several things in my life that are uncertain at the moment. I see God’s hand, but I cannot predict exactly what my future will look like. I know I am taking steps of obedience for this season, but so much is still unknown. I remember a time when my first child was on the way. My time in a particular ministry was coming to a close. I had tons of resumes out with a few potential opportunities, but I drove off the church property on my last day with no certainty. I went through a roller coaster of emotions during that period. During that roller coaster, God spoke to my heart through a sermon I watched on television. He assured me that He would provide. I testify to you today that He provided the exact financial means to carry me between the ministry I left and the next place. When I went through separation and divorce, I returned to the upstate of South Carolina with no job and no one willing to hire me for a while. God still provided what I needed during that season. I can remember driving my car on fumes and prayer. The low fuel light was on for longer than I would typically let it go, but God was faithful.
I want to use this time to remind the reader who is experiencing uncertainty that God is in control. He is not caught off guard by your circumstances. He knew before the foundation of the world, and He will make a way. It may not be the way we choose, but hindsight will give us the perspective we need.
Many of you know that my oldest three children live 4 hours away with their mother – one of the down sides of separation and divorce. My daughter normally FaceTimes me at least 4 times per week. Tonight’s conversation somehow led to the subject of my YouTube channel that she did not know I had. (You can check it out here.) For nearly 15 minutes of the conversation, she watched some of my old preaching clips and commented along the way. As several in the house could hear her listening, we talked about how much preaching had changed since then. The sad part is the change was not necessarily positive.
I must confess that, in my efforts to be relevant and keep it simple, I weakened the content of my preaching (especially in the days of the church plant). I cannot say that my intent was to weaken the message, but I tried a little too hard to engage a predominately teenage audience. I learned a lot of lessons in that almost 2-year period that I wish I could change. All I can do is correct things moving forward.
Reminiscing does not always give us warm, fuzzy feelings. Sometimes we look back and see how we need to improve. Tonight was most definitely the case. I remembered those days when I would pray with great intensity, study with great intensity, and deliver a message that challenged people. My preaching in the final months of the church plant received a great deal of criticism (well-deserved criticism, I must say). We live and learn.
In reminiscing, don’t be afraid to look at the things you could have done differently. Don’t allow it to paralyze you, but choose to learn and apply the lessons as you move forward. Don’t just dwell on the positives or delusions of grandeur. We must take a realistic look and allow it to motivate us to be the best we can for Christ.
My challenge to you – reminisce and allow the Holy Spirit to give you a realistic view of the way things were and the areas He needs to correct in your life while you yield to Him to do His perfect work.