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Posts from May 2009

Growth Can Sometimes Be Painful

Burning Passion

We had an awesome Sunday at Harvest. Good crowd! Good spirit! Good response! I'm looking forward to a great week. I visited Scott Hanes at Kaiser today and he's doing a little better. Keep him in your prayers. I feel a little guilty, just a little, for picking this beautiful flower at Kaiser on my way out today. There were hundreds of them though and I'm sure my picking this one will encourage that plant to produce more.

I have the greatest pastor's wife ever. Probably because she understands her job description very well. It's really not that complicated. It is...but it isn't. Her role as given to her by God is to be my wife. That's it! I have to say that she does an excellent job of it.

Last night at dinner she asked me about my last blog post. She asked me if I really loved being a pastor. She knows like nobody else the ups and downs I face. She is my best friend. She's the one that I go crying to when things don't go well, and she's always quick to point me back to God. She knows when I'm discouraged, defeated, hurt, lonely. She knows. I think that's what made her ask me if I really loved being a pastor.

My response was, "absolutely, probably more now than ever before." I'm 20+ years into this journey and I'm still learning every day. It may very well take a pastor his entire ministry to finally become good at pastoring. Yes, there are times when you get hurt but that only happens when you have opened yourself up to people. In order to experience the great joys of ministry you have to be exposed to the pains of ministry.

I was writing in my journal this week and sorting some things out. A pastor's heart...

  • A pastor starts by loving God and following Him into the ministry. I still stand amazed that God would call me and use me. I mentioned in my last post that the pastorate is not a job or career, it is a calling by God. Fall in love with God and let Him do whatever He wants with your life.
  • A pastor falls in love with the church, which is not a bad thing as long as he loves God more. The church is such an amazing thing! It is so exciting to study it, watch it, and participate in it. Some pastors have loved God but despised the church. When you fall in love with the church you would do anything for the church.
  • A pastor falls in love with his people. I am amazed at how much I love my people today. There is a danger here however, of loving your people more than God, which will mess everything up. Loving your people is what exposes you to the greatest joys and greatest hurts imaginable.

There may be another phase beyond these, I'm not sure. This is my journey so far. I think that tremendous pain often comes with growing and transitioning into each of these phases. I've had my share and I'm sure that I've not always handled it well. Here are a few thoughts about pain in ministry.

  • Originally, my pain was based on my being goal oriented. If I didn't hit a goal it hurt. If my attendance dropped it hurt. If someone left the church it hurt. I was on a quest for God and I wanted to please Him so much that when things didn't go right I was hurt. These things still sting and maybe more so, but for different reasons.
  • Then my pain became based on how things affected the church. I still struggle with this. I love the church so much that it really hurts me when something affects the church. I have to constantly remind myself that it is His church, not mine. I think there have been times when I hurt more for the church as an institution than I did for the individuals that make up the church.
  • As you fall in love with your people the pain sometimes seems unbearable. People that you genuinely love are able to hurt you far more than people you don't care that much about. I've said many times, "I wish I didn't care, that way it wouldn't hurt so bad". Here's the deal though, in order to be a good pastor you must care for your people.

Here's how this pain breaks down. Here are three phases of hurt. (I know, I'm going crazy with the bullet points tonight)...

  • I hurt for me... It's painful to me personally. They attacked me. They don't like me. We must grow beyond the "It hurts me" level.
  • I hurt the church... They are hurting the church. We'll not reach our goals. Our numbers are going down. We must grow beyond the "It hurts the church" level.
  • I hurt for them... We hurt because we understand how destructive sin is to our people. We see the needless pain they are experiencing. We know the toll it will take on their marriage. We know the damage it will inflict on their children.
  • I hurt for Christ... We hurt because we know the heart of God is breaking.  

I don't know why I'm sharing any of this tonight, but there it is. It's what was on my heart. Maybe there is someone God wanted me to share these thoughts with. Yes, I love being a pastor! I think I'm getting better at it each and every year. At this rate I'll be pretty good by the time the Lord takes me home.  :)


Amazing Joy

California Gold


We use the adjective 'amazing' so often to describe grace but I think it's a pretty good adjective for the 'joy' associated with knowing and serving Christ. Joy is far greater than happiness. It is not dependent on exterior circumstances. Joy is a product of our relationship with God.

Tonight, as we visited with Scott Hanes' family at the hospital I sensed this 'joy unspeakable' in the room. Despite the circumstances, there was a peace knowing that God was in control. We laughed, shared memories, and waited. I was particularly filled with joy watching families from Harvest love and care for each other. I love being a pastor.

Earlier today, I thought about the fact that pastoring is not a job or career but rather a calling. A calling from God above. It's that understanding that sees you through the good and bad times.


Dandelion Thoughts

Explosive Growth


The Dandelion is an amazing little weed. The name is believed to be descriptive of it's leaves, "tooth of a lion". The Dandelion sends between 200 and 400 seeds into the world before it dies off. I rarely notice Dandelions until they become these awesome little seed launchers. Once the seeds are in place just about anything will cause the seeds to be dispersed on their very own parachutes. A bump, a strong wind, a child making wishes, the Dandelion is completely given to spreading it's seeds.

Can you imagine the explosive growth the church would see if believers were recognized for the seeds they sow? What if anything that disturbed us merely caused us to spread the precious seeds of the gospel? What if every believer scattered 200 to 400 gospels seeds each year? Can you imagine? Why is it that most of nature does what it was designed to do and yet man refuses?

Just some random thoughts. 

What Are You Doing Now?

Wine Country Oaks

I ran across a Chinese proverb today that said, " The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

There are probably a lot of things that we should have done 20 years ago. If I had bought a home 20 years ago, I would be close to having it paid off. If I had invested money 20 years ago, compound interest would make me a very happy man today. There are always things we can spend time recalling and regretting. Maybe 20 years ago was the best time for us to do a lot of things, but now is probably the second best time. Why not finish that degree? Why not start the savings account? Why not go on the mission trip? Why not get involved in the ministry?

Think about it! Moses spent the first 40 years of his life in Egypt, the next 40 years in the hills, and then finally the final 40 years doing what He was called to do. Maybe now is the perfect time! Maybe God has just been using the past 20 years to prepare you for what He has planned for the rest of your life. I'm 40 (well, actually 42) and it sounds silly but sometimes I let the devil convince me that my best days are passed, when the reality is that my best days are more than likely still to come. Unless, I stand around regretting what I could have or should have already done.

"Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the LORD said to him, "You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess." ~ Joshua 13:1

"
And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said." ~ Joshua 14:10-12


Time is precious! Too precious to waste even a moment crying about yesterday. Get up! Get moving! There's still much to do!


Church Weeds and A Prayer Request

Weeds

I sat on the lawn (which is basically all weeds I try to keep trimmed) while taking a break from some yard work and happened to notice these very small blossoms in the weeds. I knew they were there not because you would notice any one particular blossom but because there are so many of them on the hill. Sitting there for a moment I took the time to appreciate how pretty these little blossoms were.

Lesson learned? Take time to looker closer at individuals. The crowd can sometimes cause us to miss how beautiful the individuals really are.

Please keep Scott Hanes in your prayers. He came home Sunday from having heart surgery in San Francisco but he's back at Kaiser for the night after feeling sick this morning. Scott and Glenda are two beautiful individuals in the midst of many at Harvest.


Have A Great Memorial Day Weekend!

The Greatest Glory

I took some time to wander through the San Francisco National Cemetery this weekend. What a tremendous reminder of how precious freedom is! Our greatest treasures are those things for which we would be willing to die for. God. Family. Country. I posted a few shots in my Flickr Photostream

It's pretty humbling to imagine that Jesus was willing to die for us! What do you suppose that says about how precious man is to God?

"The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children" ~ William Harvard

"Taps"
Major General Daniel Butterfield

Day is done...
Gone the sun
From the lake...
From the hills...
From the sky.
All is well...
Safely rest
God is nigh.

Fading light....
Dims the sight
And a star....
Gems the sky....
Gleaming bright
From afar....
Drawing nigh
Falls the night.





The Tremendous Task Of Keeping Watch

The author of Hebrews includes several passages that deal with spiritual leaders and how they are to be treated and responded to. These passages also say much about how spiritual leaders are to live out their lives and care for those God has entrusted to them. In Hebrews 13:17 it's too easy to focus entirely on the first phrase and not spend enough time meditating on the remainder of the passage.


"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." Hebrews 13:17


It is no easy thing 'keeping watch' over the souls of those we are given to shepherd. A good pastor loves his people. A good pastor models his ministry after the 'Good Shepherd' who lays his life down for the sheep. A good pastor is not a hireling that flees when the enemy attacks. 

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." John 10:11-13


Sometimes the weight of ministry is enormous. Besides the normal responsibilities of pastoring the church, a pastor who truly loves his people carries many burdens.

  • a member in the hospital facing major surgery
  • a member at home struggling to live another day
  • a couple struggling to make their marriage work
  • husbands who fight with their wives rather than lead them 
  • families who are hurting financially (lost jobs and or homes) 
  • women carrying deep emotional scars from past abuse 
  • children abandoned by their parents (I hate drugs and alcohol) 
  • couples dealing with the disappointment of a miscarriage 
  • members who struggle with depression or other emotional issues
  • members who are grieving the loss of a death of a loved one 
  • believers who refuse to forgive, and allow bitterness to destroy them
  • folks who don't understand Christianity is not genetic, but is a way of living 
  • young women who just want to be loved, being preyed on by young men driven by lust
  • parents who long to see their adult children and grandchildren in church  
The list could go on and on. A pastor carries around his own burdens, a burden for the Lord's church, and a burden for his people. In addition to all this, when you are working with people who are hurting the old saying is so very true, "Hurting people hurt people". Sometimes those we love the most can turn on us and inflict great harm. Nevertheless, we are called by God to this tremendous task of 'keeping watch'.

Perhaps this is why the author of Hebrews followed up with this...

"Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things." Hebrews 13:18


Have a great weekend! Hug your pastor when you see him. Better yet! Treat him to a cup of coffee!

Ministry In The Bay Area

Golden Gate Bridge


Kathy and I cruised into San Francisco tonight to make a hospital visit. Scott Hanes had a heart valve replaced and is doing excellent as of this evening. Keep him in your prayers as he recovers and regains his strength. This heart surgery is just one more stop on his journey to health.

We decided to return home by way of the Golden Gate Bridge rather than the Bay Bridge. I pulled into the Fort Baker area just as the lights on the bridge were coming on. It's pretty amazing living here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Every where you look there is beauty. Vineyards, foothills, wetlands, beaches, architecture, and more. If we're not careful we fly through life at full speed and never take the time to enjoy the beauty around us. 


Late Night Coffee

Late Night Coffee


I finished my Monday by having a late night coffee with Kathy. She's fighting a RA flare-up with prednisone and so the extra caffeine will help me keep up with her for the next day or two. This week is shaping up to be a busy one, like the last one, and the one before that, and so on. It's important to find a few minutes here and there to just chill with someone you love.