Saturday, June 25, 2016

Admirer or Disciple?

One of the people whose works and writings have profoundly affected my view of God, or of following Jesus, and who still inspire me is Clarence Jordan. Clarence was a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Agriculture, then went on to Southern Seminary and earned a Masters and Doctorate. He was a farmer and a New Testament scholar. In the early 1940's Jordan and his wife found a piece of property in Sumter County near Americus Georgia and founded "Koinonia Farm", an experiment in Christian community that crossed the racial boundaries that so characterized the South of that time.

During this time Clarence approached his brother Robert Jordan, later state senator and justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, asking him to represent Koinonia Farm legally. His brother replied, “Clarence, I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.” 

“We might lose everything, too, Bob,” Clarence reminded him. 

Jordan continued, “I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point,” Robert replied.

“Could that point be…the cross?” asked Clarence pointedly.

“That’s right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

Clarence said, “Then I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer, not a disciple.”


But isn't that true of more of us than we'd like to admit? We get squeezed between our professed love for Jesus and "the real world" of work, of money, of family, of status, of class, of rank, of whatever, and that old tempter starts whispering sweet nothings in our ear. And we listen, especially when we're hard pressed. Instead of setting our faces like flint, we gradually turn away from the hard path, the tough places thinking that movement away will bring the comfort and blessings we really want and believe we deserve.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God,30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”
Luke 18:29-30 (NLT)

When are we going to learn that we cannot out give God? When will we realize that the way "forward" means leaving the values of this world behind? When will we follow Jesus past "that point"?

Lots of people are stuck because they use the wrong standard of measurement. Are you faithfully following Jesus? Then let no one keep you from continuing.

But if you are not... if you are primarily interested in how you benefit... if it's always about YOU.

Then go back in repentance to the church you belong to and tell them you are sorry and that you want to be a follower, not an admirer.

Monday, June 20, 2016

So, You Want To Be A Pastor...

So, You Want To Be A Pastor... 

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers--Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew--fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. 19Jesus called out to them, "Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!" 20And they left their nets at once and went with him.Matthew 4:21-23 

There are times when I have to laugh about the position God has placed me into. Here's a guy who was after the American Dream - had a great job with one of the best companies on earth, great family, new car, new house.. etc. We had just finished a year within which we had reached a level of income we had never seen before. Our friends at church were great, the church was growing, and we were a part of it. Word within the church was I was a shoo in for deacon. 

Then God went and made me a pastor. I sure didn't see that coming, but it was clear to me and to others I trusted that God was calling me to serve His church.

Which leaves me wide open for questions like why? 

If it was in pursuit of accomplishment - well I'll have you know I had already achieved great success. 

For example, were you aware that I had sold the first full page color Pepto Bismol ad in the known world? Ha! Didn't think so. Or that I had sold 23 trucks full of Folgers coffee, marking the single biggest purchase on record for that brand? No? Well, now you know. And I hope you also know that compared to a person coming to know Christ or growing deeper in ther faith, that stuff's so lame.

If you decide to go into the ministry though, I should tell you that you'll have to learn a lot more about failure than accomplishment. And instead of trusting in your skill or passion, you'll have to learn to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit even when it seems He's nowhere to be found. Trust Him.

Now there will be times when everything goes well and people will single you out as a great pastor and leader, and then there will be times when things are running the wrong way and people look to you to make something happen and wonder if you can. But you have to know in your heart that all you've done from the very beginning is to love God, love His people, and try to give both your best. Any success has come from God and if it's dry right now, then He's still at work, just in a different way. Follow Him.

You'll have to come to grips with the knowledge that there will always be people who question your motives and wisdom. It'll happen more at first, but after almost 17 years here and over 20 years as a pastor, it still happens. Love them.

Sometimes there will be people who come but are at cross purposes with what the church is and hopes to be and that you still have to love them, but you don't have to let them have their way. In fact, you can't - because you're the pastor, and the good pastor lays down his life for the sheep. You'll pray for them, talk with them, and try to make them understand God's call on your church. Not the one across town or across the oceans. The church you serve. Stay true to that call. Follow the Holy Spirit's direction. 

Some people will leave, and you have to wish God's best for them, even if you believe they are leaving just that. Even if you've stood up for them to others. Even if you've given them your time. And then you have to believe that it is all part of God's plan and keep praying, keep loving, and keep preaching the Word. Does it hurt? Oh yes. Sometimes it rips your heart and that of your family. When you've prayed literally hours for someone and been there during some of the events of their life, it's tough. Guess it should be. If you don't care for people, don't you dare become a pastor.

There are stresses and strains in your life that no one will see. We've had to make use of the church food pantry too many times. Racing the Gulf Power cut off guy home gets old. We got really good and pinching pennies, but after over 20 years as a pastor I've never equalled what I made the year before I became one. When you get to the church on Christmas Eve, check the mailbox and find that your check has bounced, it takes a deep faith to stick that slip in your pocket and go lift people's eyes to the cross. My wife and my family have paid a price for my answering the call. It can destroy a marriage - it can ruin a life - several lives. I was blessed with a wife who has been more and done more for the churches I have served than anyone will ever know. And my sons - well I hope they saw that their Dad did his best. If money matters a lot to you, this is the wrong career field.

I have fewer years ahead than I have behind me, and I'm bivocational now instead of full time. But there's never a day that I'm not praying, not studying/ reading in some way to be a better pastor, a better communicator. I'm always looking for ways to see New Hope grow. We've tried some that did great, and some that didn't. But you have to keep trying to connect people to God and to people. It can be frustrating to have to build the consensus and gather the volunteers to get something done. But it's worth it, and there are many times that if you'll listen, some of the best ideas you will ever hear come from them.

One day I'll no longer be the pastor of a church. I'll still be God's servant, but I'll be serving in a different role. I don't know when that will be, but I know when it comes I'll be praying every day for my pastor, and seeking to do whatever I can to help him as he works for God.

Pastor - It's a hard, hard job. It's a thankless one from the world's point of view. But keep following Him. Keep loving His people.

For the knowledge that you served Jesus... now that makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Every Day - devotional for June 1

There are a lot of people who can work hard for a while, care for a while, love for a while, give of themselves for a while. They leave behind them a legacy of inconsistency and frayed or broken relationships with people and with God. 

In their jobs, they can’t be counted on. 

As parents, they raise kids who never know what the boundaries are. 

As husbands or wives, they tend to make everything about them – the “me” trumps the “we” that makes marriage work.

What’s the answer?

24 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. 
25 Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.  Matt 16 (MSG)

The secret to a life that leaves a lasting legacy is in those verses. 

Let Jesus lead.

Embrace life’s hardships. 

Follow Jesus every day. 


Do it and find peace.