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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Luke 24:21

We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
Luke 24:21

Dear God, I was talking to a group of people last night about being a minister to someone during a time of pain. There are three positions you can be in as the minister. The first is to have no frame of reference for what the person is experiencing. For example, if someone has lost a spouse and I haven’t then I can be there to love them and try to comfort, but I won’t have as much empathy. Or I can be in a position where I too recently lost a spouse or close relative and give a confused empathy that bonds in solidarity. Or, finally, I can have experienced the loss of a spouse a long time ago and am now living an effective life beyond that deep time of mourning. We described this example last night as being able to be a comfort while having at least a little bit of authority to encourage the person that Sunday is on the way.

The loss of Jesus to His disciples and followers must have been the ultimate in disillusionment. They saw the man they truly believed to be the Messiah killed. Still my ultimate favorite Bible story is Joseph and Nicodemus breaking ranks with the Pharisees after Jesus died, coming out as closet Jesus disciples, and then caring for his dead body (John 19:38-42). Disillusionment, pain, and having our paradigms stripped away until we are just left with faith in things we cannot see or understand seems to be part of our Christian journey.

Father, I’m sorry for the disappointments I’ve had in you and still have in you to some extent. I’m working to let go of my own preconceived expectations of you and just embrace you as my God. Help me to do that more completely and to know how to walk with others as they try to make it through life as well.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2018 in John, Luke

 

Pastoral Identity – Accountability

Dear God, I’m on to the last area of Pastoral Identity as defined by the Community of Hope International. This will be my last in the series–Attitude, Ability, Authority, and Accountability. I’m teaching these lessons tonight. I pray that you will help me to do this well, and help the attendees glean something from these lessons that will ripple your presence into the community.

Here are my notes about Accountability from the curriculum:

  • Accountability is closely linked to Authority.
    • Four areas of Accountability:
      • You are accountable to God–exercising your gifts within His calling
      • You are accountable to your community and its leaders.
      • You are accountable to your peers in the community to maintain consistent standards
        • Important to provide clear and regular reports from pastoral visits
      • You are accountable to yourself to grow into your Pastoral Identity

One of the most dangerous things is when I am totally unaccountable. I don’t care how great of a person someone is, zero accountability will lead to bad decisions every time.

Here’s a benign example. A friend of mine decided to hike the Appalachian Trail by himself. He got in shape and trained for months. He was ready to go. But after a few days he abandoned. One of the things he told me was that after a couple of days he found that the decisions he was faced with from time to time (e.g. where to stop to eat, where to camp, etc.) became compromised and he started to lose confidence in them without someone else there to run them by.

That’s a simple one. I can use examples from every walk of life. From running a corporation with no accountability to a board of directors, to living alone and having no one to challenge your decisions, we all need accountability. In the case of this lesson, if I go out in your name but I do not submit to be accountable to others then I can pretty much go off in any direction I want, be it theologically or behaviorally, and do some real damage.

Father, help me to foster accountability where I work. Help me to submit to being accountable to my wife, my board of directors, my coworkers, and my friends.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
 

Pastoral Identity – Authority

Dear God, this is day three of me going through the Pastoral Identity curriculum from the Community of Hope. Of the four parts of Pastoral Identity that they list–Attitude, Ability, Authority, and Accountability–I am up to Authority. From the notes I took about this a few years ago, this part looks a little shorter. Here is the outline I put together regarding Authority:

  • The awareness of being an authority, under authority, and conveying authority is evidence of growth in your Pastoral Identity.
    • As a Caregiver, you represent a community–The Community of Hope International.
      • You are accountable to this community because they give you authority to minister.
      • When you carry God’s Spirit to others you exhibit authority in your ministry.
      • You are accountable to the clergy and laypersons over you.

Of course, this curriculum is part of a program this particular church is using so they set up the ministerial program as the authority as the agency that gives the individual the right to minister in the name of the church. But we don’t lead with Authority. we lead with Attitude because that’s the point from which we have to start. Going back to the lesson on Attitude, if we don’t have the right one for this work then we will abuse our Authority and make ourselves a burden on the person to whom we are ministering.

Father, as I live my own life, I am not empowered by any church to speak or minister in its name. I am a simple lay person who represents you, and any Authority I have comes from you. You give me Authority, but I am also under your Authority (as well as under the Authority of my local church), and because of this I can live out this Authority when I interact with others. To the extent I do this, please help me to do it in the most humble of ways.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Miscellaneous, Pastoral Identity

 

Pastoral Identity – Ability

Dear God, I’ve decided to spend each day going through the four areas of Pastoral Identity listed in the Community of Hope curriculum that I’m teaching on Tuesday night: Attitude, Ability, Authority, and Accountability. Yesterday, I did Attitude. Today, I am up to Ability.

Here is what I have in my PowerPoint slides regarding Ability:

  • Ability means developing and practicing the skills for caring.
    • Listening attentively.
    • Setting aside your own prejudices to be accepting and non-judgmental.
    • Using wisdom to know what to say or not to say in return.
  • Your starting point is authenticity and humility. Then you actively live it out.
    • You must die to any need you have to be affirmed or appreciated.
  • Your commitments.
    • Start and continue the process of self-discovery.
      • How have you related to God?
      • How have you interpreted God’s presence?
      • How have you dealt with your fear and pain?
      • How have you related to others?
      • How have your painful experiences changed you?
  • Learn Pastoral Skills that done come naturally.
    • Listening without trying to fix.
    • Listening without telling your own story.
    • Listening without passing judgment or correcting the other person’s theology.
    • Sitting beside the person, trusting God’s presence to be there with and through you, even when there are no answers to fix the situation.

You know, it’s hard to remember all of this at any given time, but I think it simply comes down to a spirit of humility (going back to Attitude). “As I sit here with you and minister to you, I am actively dying to any need within myself to look good in your eyes.” If I cannot do that then I cannot listen without trying to fix (here, let me give you my solution and have you be impressed with me), listen without telling my own story (here, let me tell you about my suffering so you can feel sorry for me and/or be impressed with how I came through it), listen without passing judgment or correcting the other person’s theology (here, let me show you how you are wrong and what you did wrong), and sit beside the person and trust that your presence will be there to comfort, even when there are no answers to fix the situation (here, let me insert my solution and wisdom here instead of allowing you to work this out with God).

I have been trying to walk this line with someone lately, and it has been hard. I care so much. I see problems that scare me. And I feel some amount of responsibility to help this person because I’m not sure they see some of the dangers ahead. At the same time, I know that this person will not accept my solutions, nor should they without coming to a point where they are actively seeking your will for their life and discerning what you have next for them.

Father, help me to embody your pastoral presence in ever situation. Whether it be with friends, coworkers, family members, or simply people in the community with whom I interact. Help me to decrease so that you might increase. If I am telling my own story in a humble way, which I think is important for all of us to be willing to do, help me to do it in a way that is dead to my own ego and how I hope it will affect what others think about me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2018 in Miscellaneous, Pastoral Identity

 

Pastoral Identity – Attitude

Dear God, I am supposed to give a talk to a church group on Tuesday night, but it isn’t about the work we do at our nonprofit. Several years ago, a man asked me to come and teach his “Community of Hope” class about the topic of Pastoral Identity. Frankly, the first time I read the materials from which they wanted me to teach, I was overwhelmed by their vocabulary and depth. To put it bluntly, I didn’t understand them. So I took each paragraph and tried to make an outline of it. Then I turned that outline into a PowerPoint presentation. It ended up working pretty well, but now I am supposed to give it again, and I feel like I’m at square one.

I opened the PowerPoint this morning and I found these words: Pastoral Identity is the deep understanding that Jesus lives, breathes, and ministers to others through you. The it lists four aspects of Pastoral Identity: Attitude, Ability, Authority, and Accountability. It’s the slide about Attitude that I want to pray through this morning. Here are the bullet points under Attitude.

  • Willingness to see ourselves objectively and acknowledge God’s grace in our own stories.
    • We will only be able to see ourselves objectively if we receive God’s grace for our failures.
    • Coming to terms with our weaknesses helps us have compassion for others and connect to them.
    • The suffering in our own lives (past and present) helps us connect with those in difficulty.
  • The first trick is to have an Attitude of being honest with ourselves about our weaknesses.
  • What role does fear play in how you or someone else is struggling through a trial?
    • Be careful to not use denial to avoid fear.
  • Walking with someone through their trial requires you to be humble, honest and tender.
    • You cannot take away or fix the situation. Your role is to simply be there.

Oh my! That is pretty good stuff. I cannot minister until I have dealt with my own stuff. I certainly have my failings–too many to enumerate. But your grace released me from the guilt from those failings. you took a knife to the knot in the rope that ties you and me together in our relationship with Jesus’ death and bridged it back through His resurrection. Freedom! I have freedom, and it came through my being willing to let go.

When I pray for others, whether it is friends, family, or my children, if I know they do not have a relationship with you, one of the things I always pray for is that they will be able to let go. Let go of the pain they are hiding and holding on to. Let go of their shame. There is so much freedom to be had, and they just don’t know it.

I guess I’ll close with this. It’s the chorus of a song by Dennis Jernigan called “Song of Hope.” It works for not only non-Christians, but also for Christians who are holding on to their secrets and their shame:

And I wish I could take you heart into my heart
I wish I could show you just how good it feels to let go
Of the things you know are killing you
And cling to the only one who can heal
But I know if I did then it wouldn’t be you
Cuz you, you’re the only one choosing for you, it’s true

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2018 in Miscellaneous, Pastoral Identity

 

Prayer Requests

No verse.

Dear God, none of my usual sources of scripture were really inspiring me this morning, so I thought I would just pray—pray what’s on my heart.

I normally pray for specific individuals separately from this journal, but praying for them is what is what’s on my mind this morning.

  • I’m thinking of the Rotarian friend who is in the hospital in San Antonio. I am asking for healing for him and strength to endure for both him and his wife.
  • I’m thinking of my neighbor next door who lost her husband. I’m asking you there for her comfort and provision. Help her to reach out and receive comfort from her family and friends.
  • I’m thinking of the volunteer at work who is just out of the nursing home. Please give her strength and wholeness. Give her wisdom about what to do regarding her living situation and her children who live far away.
  • I’m thinking about my coworker whose spouse is sick and undergoing tests today. Give them a good report and use this scare to bring glory to your name through their lives. Give them healing. They have both been through a lot with extended family. Perhaps you can use this as a bonding agent for them so that this pain and fear will count for your glory and not be wasted.
  • I’m thinking about the relatives who are divorcing. I ask you for your healing in each of the spouse’s lives. There is so much water under the bridge and there are so many wrongs done that there is no way either of them can untie the knot of hatred and hurt feelings. Please help both of them to extend some of your grace to the other so that you might ultimately give them both the lives you have for them.
  • And for their children, to some extent I’ve been where they are. Please raise up people around them who will be your hands and feet for them. Love them well. Help them to heal and have whole relationships with both parents. Protect their hearts and lead them into a life ordained by you.
  • I have a relative who is having a mildly significant medical procedure today. Please take good care of her. Give her peace. Give her doctor great skill and minimize her pain.
  • I have a relative who is figuring out some decisions he needs to make for the future. Give him your wisdom, discernment, and joy. Help him to feel the love that his family has for him.

There are more, but I think I’ll stop here with these except to ask that, Father, please help me to be exactly what you need me to be today for your glory’s sake. Give me energy, vision, and motivation, and do it all in a way that I will decrease and you will increase through me. You are my God, and I am grateful for you and the opportunity Jesus’ redemption affords me to be here this morning.

I pray all of this through His name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2018 in Miscellaneous

 

1 Corinthians 1:13-17

Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, for now no one can say they were baptized in my name. (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.) For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.

1 Corinthians 1:13-17

Dear God, my first thought from this passage is that I must decrease and you must increase. Paul was trying to minimize his glory in the eyes of the Corinthians and maximize your glory. “Don’t brag about me or anyone else. We are just the messengers. Jesus and the Father are to be worshipped, not us.”

I met a guy yesterday who impressed the heck out of me. Frankly, he intimidated me a bit. He knew more than me and, at a younger age, seemed to have a lot more experience than me. The low-lying level of discomfort I had while talking with him made me realize how important how I present myself and how others see me really is to me. My insecurity is something that truly runs deep.

Father, I hadn’t thought about yesterday’s interaction in this way before this moment. Thank you for bringing it to my intention. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my pride and my insecurity. I don’t want “humility” to be something to which I just pay lip service, but I want it to be something that permeates every part of me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in 1 Corinthians