Just Like You

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! It’s… your pastor! Or at least how most people envision the pastor and other leaders in the church.

I know… you were expecting Super Man, right? I want to share a closely guarded secret in ministry that may get me kicked out of the club: pastors are just men. Like you, or maybe your husband, or some other men you may know… they struggle with life too.

This message may seem a bit silly, but the truth of it is powerfully important. Because we place our pastors, teachers, preachers, and others in leadership on pedestals, we develop unrealistic expectations about who they are (or even who they should be). Throughout Scripture, we see again and again that an extraordinary God uses ordinary people to change the world. Because we often forget this, we may find ourselves following teachers and preachers instead of who they should be pointing us to (Jesus).

If we are following the teachers and preachers more than the God they point us to, we are going to be disappointed. Time and time again I have seen, heard, or witnessed first hand how unrealistic expectations about our pastors have hurt the lives of so many. I want to share few well kept secrets you may not know:

  • Pastors have doubts and questions too
  • Pastors have struggles in their marriages
  • Pastors struggle in their relationships with their children
  • Pastors get angry
  • Pastors get hurt
  • Pastors feel overwhelmed
  • Pastors feel unappreciated
  • Pastors are people too

Hebrews Chapter 11 is a wonderful reminder of the faithful men and women God has used throughout history to change the world. These people have one thing in common: they were chosen and used by an incredible God. They also share one other important thing in common: they were all sinners that God showed incredible kindness, mercy, and love.

I want to close with this public service announcement: pray for your pastor. Love him. Support him. Look for ways to come along side him in the work God has called him to. Pray for his spouse, his children, and be there for them all. When the time comes… when they show you they are human too: love them any way. 

Who Are You Following?

A few days ago the question occurred to me: who are you following? In that moment the Scripture that says “fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith…” immediately came to mind. Today I want to ask you this question, who (or what) are you following?

In Scripture, time and time again, we see Jesus tell others to “follow Him”. The New Testament has much to say about following Jesus (what it means, costs, looks like, etc.) and I encourage you to read and study the Bible to understand this more. If you aren’t a follower of Jesus now, you can visit http://www.myemanuel.com/i-am-ready to learn more about who Jesus is and how you can be saved through Him. If you are a Christian (or a curious skeptic) I encourage you to keep reading.

I have often heard Christians (and non-Christians) say something like “I don’t go to church because…” Normally in the blank there is some story about a time they were hurt by a leader at church, by a friend who claims the faith, or worse yet by a parent or family member who was a self proclaimed follower of Jesus. Often the pain and hurt they endured makes it hard (even though they love Jesus) to expose themselves to the vulnerability of being hurt again.

In conversations I’ve had or heard about with non-believers, time and time again I hear how people admire Jesus but not His followers. One example, attributed to Gandhi, puts it this way: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

With all this hurt and confusion both in and out of the church, I want to share this reminder: Jesus called you to follow Him, not other “Christians”. Jesus called you to follow Him, not your spouse. Jesus called you to follow Him, not your favorite teacher or preacher. Jesus called you to follow Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

To all those who have been hurt by the church, it’s leaders or teachers, or anyone who has claimed the name of Christ, my hope is that you can forgive them and find healing. Although those we love, respect, and trust may fail us, Christ never will. God’s love is unfailing, He is faithful, and even when His most faithful servants stumble, Jesus never will.

Today I leave you with this thought: keep your eyes on Jesus. Follow Jesus. This way when other Christians fail you, you will remember your faith is in the One who never will. His promise is clear and my prayer is that it fills us all with awe and joy: 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

Pillow Talk

Tonight as we did devotion and prayed, I asked my kids if they confess their sins and ask God for forgiveness when they pray. As I reminded them of what sin is, I offered to give them both an example of how I ask for forgiveness when I pray. Although I reminded them both that my way doesn’t have to be there way, what I wanted them to know is that this is an important part of being a disciple of Jesus.

The Scripture tells us: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV) As I explained to my children, we don’t have to come to God begging and pleading for forgiveness, it has been paid for by the blood of Jesus. This also shouldn’t be a mechanical ritual where we try to “wipe the slate clean” each night before bed.

Confessing my sin tonight as a father, I pray that my children know that even daddy needs God’s grace (especially daddy – 1 Timothy 1:15). As I told my them both, we don’t ask for forgiveness with the intention of continuing to do the same things. Inevitability when I do what I don’t want to do (Romans 7:15-20), I realize God isn’t done with me yet (Philippians 1:6) and I praise Him and thank Him for His loving kindness and patience.

To summarize, God already knows your sins… but you need to acknowledge them before Him. This is the first step in the healing process and a continual part of growing as a disciple. Although I fail Him a million times, His grace is sufficient for me. If you’ve never placed your faith in Jesus, you can know this forgiveness and freedom, visit http://www.myemanuel.com/i-am-ready for more details.

I leave you with this poem that simply captures what I hope my children always remember from tonight’s devotion:

“He came to my desk with a quivering lip,
The lesson was done.
‘Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher?
I’ve spoiled this one.’
I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted,
And gave him a new one all unspotted,
And to his tired heart I cried.
‘Do better now, my child.’
I went to the throne with a troubled heart,
The day was done.
‘Have a new day for me, dear Master?
I’ve spoiled this one.’
He took my day, all soiled and blotted,
And gave a new one all unspotted.
And to my tired heart He cried,
‘Do better now, my child.'”