Low Man on the Totem Pole and No Problem with That!

Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another.”

In VanCouver Canada 2012

In VanCouver Canada 2012

A lot of people may have a huge problem with the scripture above. Why? Because probably most people want to be served, not to be a servant.

We are a society that focuses on self and pleasing ourselves, and this is a far cry from the example that Christ gave us to serve others. We are taught in our Christian belief that once we become a Christian, we have a new nature alongside our old nature; we begin to reflect on the very acts and manner of Christ. We can choose between following our old desires and lusts or following the Holy Spirit within us.

Once God calls us and enables us, it’s easy to accept Christ as our Savior and trust Him to save us. The Holy Spirit moves us to do so. But Christians sometimes stop right there. They understand that acceptance of Christ offers forgiveness of sins – past, present and future. But Christians may count on this gift from God to see them through life -regardless of whether they continue to follow their old natures. But the Holy Spirit prompts followers of Jesus to change their focus on self. The Spirit continues to educate and change us into what God intends for us to be in Christ. The freedom we have in following Christ transforms us into wanting to be more like Him – not doing anything our old nature tells us to do and simply receiving forgiveness. This spiritual transformation freely allows us to shed what we once considered important: ourselves, and sense that others are also equally important to Christ. That transformation leads us to not only listen to His voice, but to move us into service to others. The service that He calls us to engage varies greatly. Some are called into the mission fields, others to the pulpit, and to many other less visible positions in the church.

I have to say at this stage in my Christian walk, I am content to simply be a servant of The Lord. And I’m even happier to be called to be engaged in positions that most folks would consider low on the totem pole. Give me the opportunity to meet and greet new people coming into our church. Give me the opportunity to go out into the community and help feed the hungry. Give me the opportunity to visit folks in the hospital or bring a meal to those who are experiencing illness at home. Give me the opportunity to hold the hand of an elderly person or to hug someone who doesn’t get a hug from anyone else, and I am genuinely happy.

I have recently been granted the wonderful opportunity to help our new members become more connected and integrated into our church family. I am helping them to find those small groups, circles, ministries, members, and committees that they feel God may be asking them to serve. God might use me to help them find their God-given gifts to share with others.

I love being with God’s people, doing what God has called me to do. I know that God has given me the gift of hospitality, and I am currently planning a dinner party for these wonderful new members, just so we can get to know them better. These are the people that God has given me to lift up in pray and care, and what a magnificent pleasure to be in Christ’s service even low on the totem pole!

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Message of the Beatitudes – Eight – Persecuted

 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.”  Matthew 5:10-11. 

When I met Earl, he had already been in the ministry 12 years, he had 3 children (10, 12 & 14 years old), and was pastoring as an abandoned single parent in a church that had about 10% of the city residents, (600 of 6,000).  I was in my mid 30’s he was in his early 40’s.  I had 2 children of my own (10 & 16 years old).  But I didn’t think twice about dating and eventually marrying a pastor.  I had been a Roman Catholic growing up, became a Baptist at 28 and didn’t see any issues with becoming a Presbyterian when I married Earl at the age of 36.

After 13 years of marriage bliss – 🙂 – I have since discovered how life in the ministry can be.  My husband has had all of the 8th beatitude negatives hurled at him at one time or another in his ministries, from insults to persecution to loss of larger church calls because he wouldn’t compromise his beliefs, and to having all kinds of evil said against him falsely on account of his belief in the Jesus as presented in the Bible.

I remember a church that would have called him, but told him that he would have to leave all his controversial sermons in his filing cabinet.  Needless to say, he didn’t take the call.  Over the years, I too, have had derogatory and untrue comments said about me.  Those have really hurt especially since I have been very actively involved at many levels in every church that we have served. 

     I would highly recommend to all church sessions, leaders, staff and church members, the book, “What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew” by Denise George.  This book says it all and then some. 

     If you take the time to read the book mentioned above, you will actually see the real world of a pastor’s life and the far-reaching effects upon his family.  Jesus warned that all those who made the decision to follow Him would be persecuted, they would be afflicted, and they would be oppressed.  In  1 Thessalonians 3:4-7, Paul writes that he advised the church that he was going to suffer affliction and then by verse 7 he states, “In all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith.”

     A pastor and his family know that according to the Scriptures, ministry is going to be difficult.  Jesus promised that it would be.  That is part of God’s call, and I am not really complaining.  But Christians need to recognize that sometimes they can be used, usually without their awareness of it, to damage a good ministry and to discourage someone who has been graced by God to shepherd and benefit the church.  With this knowledge and with a lot of prayer, forgiveness, and the strength of God, a church family and a pastor’s family can be victorious through all kinds of trials.  We can all bear much more fruit for Jesus Christ when we stop insulting and discouraging pastors and start praying for them and supporting them and respect the fact that God may be working through them.

When I read God’s Word, I am in awe of the prophets who have stood in time past and had been persecuted.  I never compare my life with theirs, but I can understand just a little better some of the dynamics and trials of their lives.  To be persecuted because of your belief in Jesus Christ is like a badge of honor because when this happens to us, Jesus reminds us of His promise, “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”   (Matthew 5:12)   At least when we are persecuted on account of Jesus, we know that we are on the right side!

One of the most important and holy acts of kindness a church family and shepherds can do is to be in continuous prayer about their shared ministry together.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Churches that have done exactly that have seen the positive results of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of those who have had a God-change of heart.  Blessings abound for all involved when we do as Jesus directs rather than taking matters into our own hands and reacting cruelly, hurtfully or in an un-Christ like manner.

Unlike many minister families who may be experiencing more severe issues, Earl and I are doing relatively well.  I did not write this blog to imply that we are always experiencing persecution.  But some pastors and churches are going through such trials that we should not only be praying for them, but also teach and proclaim that it shouldn’t be the church that persecutes its own – even if the world does.  Many times churches and shepherds can experience great love, prayers and support for each other.  And this is how our witness should be to our culture.  But in this ministry as a pastor’s wife, I have learned what God’s call upon my life is.  As Earl ministers to our church family, I am to minister to him.  For his days are long and hard out in the ministry field.  The very least that I can do is to minister to him and attempt to make his divine call as easy to bear as possible.  We are in this ministry of Jesus Christ together – for better or for worse.

Message of the Beatitudes – Five – Merciful

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Life is a struggle.  We fear.  Life hurts.  Now we’ve been judged by others.  When life throws us into a pit, and we can’t find a way to climb out, who has shown us mercy and offered us a hand to get out?  Sometimes we only catch a glimpse of judgment on the faces of those who see us suffering – as if they’ve never worn anyone else’s shoes and have never been down-trodden.

But perhaps judgmental reactions are what they received while down in their own pit, and it’s the only reaction they understand.  Perhaps their behavior is due to their unbroken spirits in the Lord. They do not acknowledge that God has shown them mercy, and that they have more power to show mercy once they experience it themselves.  But to experience mercy, we all must acknowledge that we owe God a great debt and that we are unable to repay it and that God has offered to forgive us, undeservedly.  Mercy is a form of grace, which is undeserved favor.  Mercy is undeserved compassion and forgiveness.

So let’s back up for one moment.  What is mercy?  Mercy is an active empathy extended to relieve someone in misery, pain and/or distress, regardless of who it is.  This includes our enemies.    We should be on the lookout for those in distress and not pass by on the other side of the road.  We should have a heart of pity and our deepest desire should be to help no matter who the sufferer is.

Jesus lived a life of mercy.  He spent His time surrounded by those less fortunate; he suffered with the suffering, the addicted, the homeless and the prostitutes.  With whom do we surround ourselves?  What judgmental attitudes block our ability to extend mercy?  God’s desire is to be seen through us.  The Holy Spirit desires to penetrate that which hinders us from being God’s light to a suffering world.  

Have we become an indifferent people?  Are we now a people who lack concern for others?  If we have suffered, we should be the first to show compassion and mercy upon those that are suffering.  For we know that God pulled us up out of our pits when God showed mercy on us.  We should never condemn others.  Yet if someone stumbles, we are not to accept their sin as good, but we are to lend a helping hand and offer them God’s forgiveness.  Even Jesus said to the adulterous woman, who was condemned by the Pharisee’s, “Where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  When she indicated that nobody had, Jesus then mercifully said, “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

Suffering is not always for no reason.  Suffering allows us to become better Christians – having compassion for those who are suffering perhaps something we’ve suffered ourselves.  What have we suffered and how can we use that experience to help a fellow brother/sister through the trials or sins in which they find themselves?

For one of the greatest blessings of receiving mercy is to be merciful ourselves.

God Breathed….LIFE

Recently I was studying a Sunday school lesson, and I was in the book of Luke Chapter 24. At the same time I was working on another study for my women’s circle that concerned the soul.  I was researching the 7th Beatitude “Blessed are the peacemakers…”  As I was surfing the internet, I came upon a site that suggested that the body was the soul of human beings.  This was the first time I had ever heard of such an idea, and it apparently is something many people are considering.

Each morning I listen to the music on my alarm clock and the station programmed is that of the local Christian radio station.  A song was playing, and God spoke to me when the lyrics said “God Breathed”.  Between the research and the song, I wanted to enjoy a moment reflecting on the essence of life and share it with you.

Genesis 2:7 “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

It seems to me that our bodies were created separately from our souls. It wasn’t until God breathed into man’s flesh that we became a living being.  Our bodies couldn’t function without God’s breath.  Our souls are the very living breath of God.

Then I looked at Psalm 39:11 “….Surely every man is a mere breath.”  Man is nothing without the breath of God.  How awesome is that, that our souls came alive by the mere breath of God.

Look at Ezekiel 37:9, “thus says the Lord GOD, “come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.” Ezekiel 37:10 “…and the breath came into them, and they came to life.”  Ezekiel 37:14 “And I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life…declares the Lord.”  Our souls are a reflection of God’s eternal existence.

Without the breath of God, we cannot exist.  But God did not breathe life into us for the purpose of giving ourselves pleasure.  He breathed us into life to give Him pleasure and to serve Him.  For He commanded man to fill the earth, and to rule over all the living things on the earth. It is only our selfish attitudes that keep us from aspiring to the good that God has seen in us from the beginning.  It is only our selfish attitudes that keep us from serving God with the gifts that He has given us to use for His Kingdom’s sake, and we selfishly serve ourselves instead.

So what are we doing that brings God joy and pleasure?  What service are we performing for His glory?  As a Christian leader, it should be our pleasure to be in His service and to help bring our Christian brothers and sisters into service as well.  For what did Jesus speak to the disciples upon His resurrection when He showed Himself to them in the locked upper room?  John 20:21 “Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’  And when he had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”  Our spirits are made in the image of the Spirit of God.  For He said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” Genesis 1:26 

 Jesus came to breathe the Holy Spirit into His disciples so that they could go out – be sent – in service to Him.  And by believing in Him you may have true LIFE in His name everlasting.

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