UNITY IN A DIVISIVE CULTURE

Zacharias & Chan on Rights, Opinions, & Convictions

While watching an unrelated Francis Chan video, I noticed this intriguing ten-minute piece from a peacemaking conference.

The speakers give their answers to this question posed by someone at the event:

How do we unify the church when the culture views our beliefs as oppressive, and without compromising our convictions?

Both come from different angles but meet in a hysterical middle!

Their insights are helpful for such a challenging issue.

 

COVID-19’S OTHER THREAT

Heading Off Social Distancing of a Different Kind 

Social distancing (with a measure)

Our church reopened last Sunday! After six long, challenging weeks of stay-at-home lockdown, we eagerly gathered for worship in stage one of Idaho’s Rebound plan.

Given health risks, we observed safety protocols. Everything got sanitized. Social distancing was employed. We cancelled our regular weekly luncheon together.

Thankfully we survived week one of the new abnormal—but it wasn’t easy. Honestly, last week was the toughest this pastor pushed through thus far in his short tenure at Trinity.

Health issues aside, another threat posed by the pandemic tends to keep me awake at night.

One blogger astutely asked: “What will it matter if we re-assimilate only to end up ‘socially distant’ again not because of a virus, but because of our inability to love others who approach COVID-19 differently than we do?”

Great question!

Consider four ways to minimize the looming relational risks.

One, Pray for Leaders

Someone has to call the ball. Sheep are not stupid; they are dependent on good shepherds to serve them. Wisdom is needed everywhere.

Paul pleads of first importance “that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people–for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim. 2:1-2).”

What might change if we pray more for leaders at every level than we post criticism on social media about their judgments?

Two, Be Patient

I’m in Indiana Jones mode these days—making things up as I go along! They don’t teach “Pastoring in Pandemics” in seminary.

I feel in over my head. This thing seems way above my paygrade. The challenge to get things right grows bigger each day.

Leaders need followers who remember the first mark of love is patience (1 Cor. 13:4).

Three, Do Peacemaking

Opinions on all things COVID abound. With them comes the potential for sharp disagreements. What are we to do?

Of all the conciliatory principles I could cite, I suggest at least these three guidelines for avoiding falling out with others, if at all possible.

“Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5).

“Let us not pass judgment on one another” (Rom. 14:13).

“Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Rom. 15:7).

We need to give others a wide berth in figuring things out, in the same way we desire for them to treat us (Matt. 7:12).

Four, Keep Perspective 

Days after Nancy, my first wife, died of cancer, a lunatic gunned down 49 souls at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.

KLTY radio 94.9 in Dallas-Ft. Worth asked me the ultimate question. Why? Among my answers: We live in a sin-broken world. Romans 8:22 explains: “the whole creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth until now.”

Hardships like COVID shout to us, “This is not the way things are supposed to be. But it is not the way things will always be.” “We wait eagerly for adoption as sons” (Rom. 8:23).

Jesus will come again to make all things new! That’s the big-picture perspective.

Hope for that—but wait for it with patience (Rom. 8:25).

Question: What’s one thing which helps you love others with whom you differ?

A CASE OF PANDEMIC BLUES

A Fight for Joy Through COVID-19

Save us out from the darkness

I woke up depressed last Saturday. I mean I was down, really down. I was in a not-even-sweetly-joyful-Jan-could-bring-me-out-of-it funk.

I’ve always tended toward the melancholy–though I’ve grown over the years to be less so. But at times darkness still hides His lovely face and I succumb to gloom.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on the cause. I suspect a collection of stay-at-home-order suspects ganged up on me that day. Frankly, my emotions have taken a wilder rollercoaster ride through this time of COVID-coopedupness than I ever expected.

I feel relationally starved. My life revolves around ministering to others. Texts, phone conversations, Facebook messages, Zoom calls and the like get me only so far in my need for connection.

Then there is the ongoing privation of the ordinary means of grace that are not so ordinary to me. I miss singing with God’s people, hearing the word of God preached, feasting at the Lord’s Table, breaking bread with our church family, among other priceless things.

Perhaps I’ve got more ministry idols in need of exposing than I care to explore.

I wonder how many others struggle so?

It took a day or so, but I managed to come out of the nosedive. A week-long postmortem revealed some insights for me about the journey.

Asking Questions of Myself

My friend Ken Sande of RW360 has helped me with this aspect of relational wisdom. The “S” in his “SOG” plan stands for being Self-Aware.

It involves asking yourself things like: What am I feeling? Why do I feel that way? What am I inclined to do? What will I do instead?

David prodded himself similarly in Psalm 42:5:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.

Those last two questions in Ken’s list are crucial to a successful  upward climb out of the pit. What I was inclined to do was somehow veg the whole day. Instead by God’s grace I chose a healthier path.

Doing the Next Thing

Saturday was a work day for me. I was behind in my hours for the week. I didn’t want to do any of it. But I did anyway. Here’s why.

This counsel from Oswald Chambers has served me well over time:

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time (emphasis added).

Relishing the Surprises

I finished my work. I felt a bit better, but still lingered in my melancholy.

Then I got this Onesiphorus-like text “out of the blue” from a brother in our church:

“Happy Saturday night! Hope you both are doing well. I wasn’t sure how much you are going into town for supplies. If there is anything I can pick up and deliver for you, let me know. We are doing OK . . . learning to be thankful for things.”

Please understand. In this rural Idaho valley, nobody lives close by! This was a huge offer of kindness. I told him he made my day, especially as I was struggling with the blues.

And that last line of his text about learning to be thankful? What a great reminder to fight for joy with verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Self Care

It took me years in ministry to learn this lesson.

A counselor once asked me, “What does Curt do for Curt?”

This without-healthy-boundaries caregiver immediately dismissed the validity of the question for the fear of selfishness.

But eventually he came to his senses. He who cares for the interests of others without due care for his own needs eventually ends up unable to care for anyone’s.

Saturday night we ate a good supper. We got a great night’s sleep–still getting used as a preacher to sleeping in on Sunday mornings–way longer than usual! If food and rest were the Lord’s prescription for a depressed prophet, we best apply the same as needed.

By the time Jan and I made our way to an online service Sunday morning, my joy had returned and we worshipped the Lord.

It still wasn’t the same as gathering together with our church family, but it helped frame another week of fighting for joy in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Question: What helps you fight for joy in this difficult season?

 

 

IN PRAISE OF BELOVED PHYSICIANS, AGAIN

A Tribute to Doctors on the COVID-19 Front Lines

I first posted this paean to physicians some four years ago after my jaw transplant. It seemed fitting to resurrect it now to say thanks to the army of MDs fighting so bravely in the Coronavirus pandemic.

After all, it’s only fair having recently done the same for nurses. Where would we be without this devoted band of professionals putting their lives on the line day after day, night after night?

On discharge day after a week in the hospital for “Operation Robojaw,” one of my doctors made a point to visit me that Sunday morning. The moment I met the man two months earlier my heart attached fast to him.

Docgreen

We prayed together that morning–me for him and him for me. As soon as we finished, I immediately felt prompted to say this: I imagine you’re a lot like Dr. Luke must have been. Dr. Green deflected the praise, as I suspected he would. However, since then I’ve given a fair amount of thought to what makes for a beloved physician.

Mostly, Bible lovers think of Luke as a meticulous historian and second most prolific New Testament author after the apostle Paul. Without Colossians 4:14 we’d never suspect his medical credential–Luke the beloved physician greets you. That’s it. Not a whole lot to go on.

Still we can take away more than immediately meets the eye, if only we will ponder this verse and a few others which also reference Luke. As for Colossians 4:14, it helps to know a little of the original language and its syntax. Literally the verse reads: Greets you Luke the physician the beloved. Awkward. I get it. But informative. Paul puts the beloved last in the sentence for emphasis. Greek often does that. Word order matters. The word means “dearly loved, prized, valued.”

Paul considered Luke a prince. He treasured the man. Luke ranked high in his beloved category. Here’s my take on why:

One, Luke cared deeply and personally for others. All that oozes out of the word greet at the beginning of Colossians 4:14. It conveyed a great deal more sentiment than saying “hey” or “hello.” When someone used this greeting-from-a-distance formula common in the New Testament, he intended to say, If I were there I would greet you with one huge holy kiss (Rom. 16:16). I’ll wager Luke aced bedside manner class.

Two, Luke acted courageously and remained loyal to others. On death row in a Roman prison, Paul makes this astonishing statement in 2 Timothy 4:11–Luke alone is with me. Deserted by all others, Paul found comfort in his you-can’t-shake me-I’m-not-going-anywhere doctor, no matter what the costs. How true is this trait of our COVID-19 fighting professionals?!

Three, Luke concerned himself diligently and humbly not just for the bodies but also for the souls of others. Consider how he introduced his gospel in Luke 1:1-4:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Don’t you think Theophilus thanked his lucky stars for Luke’s historical writing of the good news of Jesus? Luke saw himself just as much an evangelist as a doctor (see also Acts 16:10). Luke is part of the “we” and “us” of that text.

docteam

Four, Luke valued and got along famously with a team of others in his ministry. Philemon 24 makes this clear: and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. Above I’ve included an image of two more rock-star docs who cared for me in Miami. I forced them to strike this victory pose on discharge day. 

Gentlemen, this patient salutes you. You and every other doctor who has ever labored over my many ills are all beloved in my book. And that goes for you COVID-19 warriors as well! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. They will have to answer to this pastor with a titanium jaw.

Question: What qualities have you enjoyed in a doctor or doctors which have made them beloved to you? You can leave your comment here.

DON’T WASTE YOUR PANDEMIC

Prize Tested Genuineness of Faith in the COVID-19 Trial

Coronavirus, covid-19 news headlines on United States of America 100 dollar bills. Concept of financial impact, stock market decline and crash due to worldwide pandemic

Our monthly brokerage account statement arrived by mail today. As suspected, like so many with however modest a financial nest egg, we have taken a hit.

Are you as tempted to despair as I am?

I wonder how well my shield of faith will hold up under the daily barrage of flaming missiles (Eph. 6:16).

Ever increasing reports of confirmed cases. Rising death toll rates. Prolonged stay-at-home orders. Escalating unemployment figures. Plunging financial markets.

Honestly, my attitude fluctuates. At times I stay positive. Other times I turn negative.

My biggest battle has surprised me–a struggle with entitlement. This awareness of my prevailing weakness as a human being and limitations as a spiritual leader sobers me.

What do I mean?

This is not the semi-retirement I signed up for. I eased my way out of full-time ministry in the big city, relocated to my own private Idaho paradise, accepted a small part-time pastorate, and settled in expecting to enjoy the best years ahead.

And I’m due, or so I think. Anyone who has followed this blog over the years knows I’ve seen my share of suffering, loss, trial, and failure.

It’s time to cruise. It’s time to kick back some. It’s time to enjoy the golden years with my bride.

Instead I find myself with a brand new, never-in-my-life-time challenge, pressing me to the limit.

And once again I must weigh anchor in a passage from the Bible that has seen me through countless times of trouble.

I’m talking about Ecclesiastes 7:13-14.

13 Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

The most important word in the passage, occurring twice, is the word “consider.” The Hebrew root literally means “see” or “look.” The idea is to inspect, reflect, dwell carefully on something.

On what? On this: God makes both the days of prosperity AND the days of adversity in our lives.

Proverbs 16:4 echoes the same truth: “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

But why camp out mentally and carefully consider this wisdom truth about the Maker of both good times and bad?

So that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Puritan commentator Matthew Henry unpacked that line this way:

that he may not be at any certainty concerning future events or the continuance of the present scene, but may live in a dependence upon Providence and be ready for whatever happens.

There you have it. So much for entitlement. So much for being in control. So much for my best life now, Curt Heffelfinger style.

My best life has always been–since following Jesus at least–one of humble dependence upon the Lord and his control over my circumstances. He desires me to be ready at all times for whatever happens–not whatever I want to happen.

And he even invites me to rejoice in trials like this, grievous though they are, because they can result in the tested genuineness of my faith–more precious than gold (and our investment account) though it is tested by fire (1 Pet. 1:6-7).

IF, IF, IF I don’t waste my pandemic!

IF I keep taking up my shield of faith which can extinguish every fiery dart of the enemy (Eph. 6:16).

IF I let the testing of my faith produce steadfastness (James 1:2).

IF I let suffering produce endurance, and endurance produce character, and character produce hope which does not put to shame (Rom. 5:3-5).

Don’t waste your pandemic bemoaning and stressing what you can’t control!

Consider him who ordains prosperity and adversity alike and learn the prized lesson.

What matters is dependence upon him at every turn and a faith on the other side of COVID-19 tested by fire more precious than gold.

Make that your aim and please pray I/we do the same.

A SHEPHERD’S WORDS FOR HIS FLOCK

Pastoral Perspective for the Pandemic

U.S. naval hospital ship Comfort.

However inadequate we may feel for the responsibility, it remains the task of servants like me to offer comfort and help from the Scriptures for their flocks under duress.

I pray these words might encourage the fainthearted and help the weak (1 Thess. 5:14)–and I count myself among them–in the hard providence that is COVID-19.

Here are six exhortations from the Scripture in hopes that Proverbs 24:10 may not indict us in this challenging season.

Behold Your God

I awoke this morning to snowfall. Welcome to Spring in Idaho!

The Lord reminded me of Psalm 147:16-17–who can stand before his cold?

He reminded me of Job 26:6-14–Coronavirus disease is but the outskirt of his ways.

He reminded me of Isaiah 45:7–he is the Lord who does all these things.

He reminded me of Job 2:10–in all these things Job did not sin with his lips.

And he reminded me of 1 Peter 5:6-7–casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

And so I ask you, dear saint, sheep of his pasture, how big is your God–even in the face of global calamity? “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it (Amos 3:6)?”

Stand in awe of your sovereign God.

Strengthen Your Hand

Check out 1 Samuel 30:1-6. Take this text to the bank of your soul for fighting distress.

When hemmed in by seemingly insurmountable troubles, what did King David do?

He strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Little flock, in these days when providence has robbed us of the regular means of grace which are corporate worship, the preached word, the Lord’s Table, and one-another community, perhaps more than ever we must press on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3).

Read your Bible. Anchor your thoughts in texts like Luke 12:32.

Pray alone and with the members of your household. Trade time in anxiety for precious minutes of intercession in pursuit of God’s peace (Phil. 4:6-7).

Stream redemptive resources which abound on the internet.

Dear ones, move toward your God, not away from him.

Remember Your Examples

We have need of patience which forges in us the enviable virtue of steadfastness.

James 5:7-11 aims for this reality of genuine faith. “We consider those blessed who remained steadfast” (11).

Take your cue from the farmers, the prophets, Job, and the archetype of patient suffering reaping all its rewards, Jesus Christ (Heb. 5:7-10).

Read biographies. I highly commend John Piper’s 7-volume series The Swans Are Not Silent for readable, accessible, and profitable use of sheltered-in-place time.

Remember those who spoke the word to us and imitate their faith (Heb. 13:7).

Love Your Neighbor

Oh, how we need one another within the family of God and without (Gal. 6:10)!

Pray for one another. Text one another. Email one another. Call  one another. Message one another.

And long for one another! 

Do you not miss as I do taken-for-granted Sunday-together delights like warm embraces, robust hymn singing, earnest praying, hearing God’s word preached, feasting at the Lord’s Table, fellowshipping over lunch, and more?

It is a form of sharing in Jesus’s suffering to be deprived of such things. Identify with your persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe who regularly take their lives in their hands to enjoy such privileges (Heb. 13:3). They know better than we.

Consider Your Ways

Church, exploit, don’t waste, the severe mercy of a stay-at-home order. You have time to ponder and examine your ways which normal busyness wars against.

To whom or what do you turn for comfort in these challenging times?

“Little children, keep yourself from idols” (1 John 5:21). There are places on the internet you must not go. There are things on the TV you best not watch.

There are pursuits–good pursuits of which you are robbed for a season–that you may choose to pursue Mary’s better part (Luke 10:38-42).

Drink from the fountain of living waters, not broken wells that hold none (Jer. 2:12-13).

Temper Your Judgments

Resist the temptation to take God’s place on the throne. Jesus warned of this (Luke 13:1-5). God alone knows his ultimate purposes (Deut. 29:29). And he always judges perfectly. We do not.

The peoples of China, Italy, Spain, New York, Louisiana, California and other hard-hit COVID-19 hotspots have nothing on me as an offending sinner deserving judgment.

I, like Paul, am the worst (1 Tim. 1:15).

What to do? “Unless you repent, you will all like wise perish” (Luke 13:3-5).

Dear flock, examine yourself (2 Cor. 13:5). Believe the gospel again (1 Cor. 15:1-2). And hope in God–our refuge, strength, and very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). 

STANDING OVATION FOR NURSES

A Re-Post Necessary for COVID-19 Times

Nurse wearing respirator mask holding a positive blood test result for the new rapidly spreading Coronavirus, originating in Wuhan, China

I’m not sure I’ve ever done this before and I’ve blogged for quite some time.

However, pandemics change things–do they ever!

I’ve worked through health challenges over the years. Some have been worse than others; most, I suspect, have been less.

But through them all, nurses have served me countless times in ways too numerous to document.

In this pandemic, once again, they demonstrate nobility extraordinaire.

For every one of you who has cared for me in Orlando and Miami, I salute you.

May this re-post urge others to add their encouragement.

For a quick read of the original post, click A Most Noble Profession.

Question: When has a nurse come through big time for you?

HOW KING DAVID WOULD LEAD IN A PANDEMIC

Three Musts for Guiding Others in Crisis

 

In contemplating a blog post somehow helpful in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, my thoughts turned to Psalm 131.

There may be no other text I use more frequently in pastoral care for people making war on worry. Charles Spurgeon rightly called it “a short ladder rising to a great height.”

King David, the shepherd/leader of Israel, authored it. It has much to offer for leaders and followers alike suffering through a pandemic.

Psalm 78:72 says this of David: With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand. That hand is all over Psalm 131.

And it is Godward in every way.

I see here three aspects of Godward aim in leadership through a crisis.

A Mindset of Learned Humility before God (1a).

My heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high.

He makes a genuine confession about the condition of his heart. It’s lowly, humble. He has just the right perspective before the Lord.

David entertains no delusions of grandeur about himself. He suffers no illusions of over-inflated self-importance, even though God anointed him as Israel’s shepherd king.

Notice the way that translates into a word picture in the next line.

My eyes are not raised too high.

The trajectory of one’s eyes reveals the condition of one’s heart. He won’t permit what Prov. 6:16-17 calls haughty eyes.

That begs the question—how might we self-diagnose pride? Read on.

A Manner of Composed Rest on God (1b-2).

Whatever historical vantage point of hard providences from which David learned this, he eventually grew in his spiritual maturity to a point where in the face of the most difficult circumstances he made a consistent choice.

I do not occupy myself with things too marvelous for me.

The Hebrew word for occupy comes from a root which means to walk.

When David bumped up against challenges too marvelous, he refused to walk in them. He wouldn’t go down that road obsessing over what he couldn’t control.

He refused an arrogance that wigged out over stuff above his pay grade. That’s how I unpack the word marvelous.

Proverbs 30:18 is enormously helpful in getting at the meaning here: Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand.

Perhaps the best translation is the word difficult. I do not trouble myself with things too great and difficult for me.

John Calvin favored things too high for me.

Jim Boice captured the thrust this way:

What David seems to be concerned about in this verse is . . . peering into the hidden purposes of God. . . . He is saying he had learned that he did not have to understand everything God was doing in his life or know when he would do it. All he really had to do was trust God.

So what might that look like if we embraced the same humility and resolve? Verse 2. I have calmed and quieted my soul.

The word for calmed gives us another visual image to help with its meaning. Literally, I have smoothed and quieted by soul.

David testifies to making a choice that likens his composure to a smooth-as-glass-lake at dawn’s first light. But he wants to focus our attention on a more vivid, emphatic word picture to drive home the point here.

Like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

This is such a powerful image!

A post-weaning child acts very differently around its mother’s breast than a famished pre-weaning child. It is almost comical to watch infants go berserk anticipating latching on to mom’s milk.

But once weaned, it’s a whole different matter. When it comes time for snuggling―nothing but restfulness and contentment.

David testifies that his learned humility works its way out in his life by a consistent choice of weaned-childlike composure, a manner which rests calmly at every turn on the bedrock sovereignty of God’s providence in all things.

This is an Isa. 26:3-4 calm.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

It’s a John 14:1 Jesus’ perspective/resolve. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Leaders must learn this. Followers need this example played out consistently, not perfectly—no one does that—but as a rule regularly demonstrated even in the most troubling of circumstances.

Few of Oswald Chamber’s devotional writings have hit me harder than this one:

Fussing always ends in sin. We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are an indication of how really wise we are; it is much more an indication of how really wicked we are. Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. . . . Have you been bolstering up that stupid soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God? Put all “supposing” on one side and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.

A Message of Sustained Hope in God.

Don’t miss the shift in David’s focus here.

He moves from talking directly with I AM in vv. 1-2 to exhorting God’s people here in v. 3.

His message?

O Israel, hope in the Lord.

Do as your shepherd/king does.

Bow before God. Rest on God. Hope in God.

When? ALWAYS.

From this time for the and forevermore.

Never, ever give up on Him.

We really should read Psalm 131 and Psalm 130 in tandem. David repeats the plea of the psalmist in verse 7.

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, with him is plentiful redemption.

Pastors, if we have anything at all to say to our people caring for aging/ailing parents, waiting for prodigals on the run, agonizing over conflicted relationships, working through difficult diagnoses, fighting against cunning and baffling addictions, grieving over heart-breaking loss, worrying about the next election cycle, bemoaning the Dow Jones in freefall, freaking out over a rampaging novel virus, and countless other too great, marvelous, difficult, and high providences, let our message ever be this:

O dear ones, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore!

Take your people again and again to texts like Rom. 5:3-5.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Point them relentlessly to the counsel with massive promise found in Phil. 4:6-7.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Help them—to borrow from Pastor John Piper’s words—to know contentment of soul that is based not on their circumstances, but on their unshakable restfulness in God.

Whether you’re a leader or not, you may be thinking, I want this, but I struggle so with anxiety. By default, I’m a fear-based person.

What should you do?

Respond to Jesus’ standing invitation in Matt. 11:28-30.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Take your cue from and live in the strength of the One who agonized in Gethsemane at the prospect of the cross, but chose not to occupy himself with its degree difficulty by choosing the calm of “Not my will but yours be done.”

He died for every last strand of yours and my wicked fussing and sent His Spirit to live in our hearts with His supernatural peace.

Repent, believe the gospel, and trust and obey once again.

Humble, composed, hopeful—indispensable qualifications all, fit for shepherd/kings, presidents, pastors and their followers.

HOW TO SPOIL YOUR PASTORS

Ten Ways to Treat Shepherds That Safeguards Peace

Spoil them? Really? I never imagined writing such a post. It seems rather self-serving for a pastor like me to post an article like this. But my experience last week changed things.

Along with several other men from our church, I attended this year’s Shepherds’ Conference in LA. I gotta tell ya. Those guys pampered this pastor from start to finish.

They paid my way, made me ride shotgun in the vehicles, waited in line to save a primo seat in sessions for me, got me some coffee and food, sprang for some books, and even bought me a gorgeous all-leather messenger bag! They insisted the economy canvas version I had purchased wouldn’t do.

If all that didn’t blow me away, they then catered to my request to leave the venue early on the last night to livestream the final message back at the hotel. That meant I/we could get to bed at a decent hour for the marathon travel day ahead.

Good grief, I felt loved!

OK, so “spoiled” may be a bit over the top, but I can make a biblical case for contributing significantly to your pastors’ joy.

After all, they are God’s gift to your church (Eph. 4:11-12). You are commanded to follow in a way that serves their leadership happiness (Heb. 13:17). And they exist to work with you for your joy (2 Cor. 1:24).

Here are ten ways you can “spoil” your pastors in the interest of eagerly preserving church unity (Eph. 4:1-3).

One, pray for them (2 Thess. 3:1). If you do anything on this list, do this. A family in Orlando still prays for me DAILY, even though I stopped shepherding them over a year ago!

Two, obey and submit to them (1 Cor. 16:16; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:5). Or to put it as the Greek imperatives suggest, cultivate an easily led disposition.

Three, respect, honor, and esteem them very highly in love (1 Thess. 5:12-13). Their work demands this–see chapter 9 in The Peacemaking Church.

Four, pay them well (Rom. 16:1-2; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). Give toward your vocational elders’ adequate financial support. No ox-muzzling please!

Five, protect them from false accusations (1 Tim. 5:19). When someone takes aim, refuse to entertain charges without sufficient witnesses.

Six, when necessary, practice biblical peacemaking with them (1 Tim. 5:20). Tough love–that’s what that is.

Seven, refresh and encourage them (1 Cor. 16:18; 2 Tim. 1:16-17). Think of the myriad of ways to do this from writing a note of appreciation (aim for ten affirmations per one constructive criticism) to treating them to a meal and more.

Eight, imitate their godly example (1 Cor. 11:1; Heb. 13:7). What shepherd doesn’t do cartwheels of joy when that happens?

Nine, partner with them in the ministry (Phil. 4:2-3). Don’t sit on the bench! Get in the game by using your spiritual gift (1 Pet. 4:10-11).

Ten, look out for their interests (Phil. 2:3-4). They are attending to yours. Return the gospel favor.

If God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)–and surely he does–then God loves a cheerful pastor too.

You can make a difference in your pastors’ joy and not just during Pastoral Appreciation Month every October.

Spoil on, sheep!

Question: What’s an idea you have for “spoiling” pastors?