4 Posts from July 2011

Be Who You Are

I had the privilege of being mentored by a man who is now gone. I became one of the first interns on the staff with Ray Stedman at Peninsula Bible Church. And I saw in Ray something I had not seen modeled in many pastors . . . an authentic life.

Ray was just who he was. I saw it work. I saw a man who was not defensive, who could laugh at himself, who had fun in life and yet was as good a thinker on his feet in question/answer sessions as I’d ever seen. I saw a man who could love the homosexual and at the same time do an excellent biblical presentation on the sin of homosexuality. I saw a man who had a room in his life for a wayward child. I saw a man who hardly traveled alone, no matter where he went, and always had someone younger with him. One of the secrets of building character in the lives of others is taking time for those younger than you. Those who are longing for the qualities and the character that have made you who you are. Ray did this for me.

No matter how significant you may become, no matter how well known your name, no matter how important your work, no matter your salary, no matter what your reputation may be, you must allow yourself to become who you are. I’m not a formula guy, but this simple little formula has worked for me throughout my adult life: Know who you are, accept who you are, be who you are.

The greatest gift you can give to your congregation, to your family, to whomever—as the Lord continues to work in your life—is who you are. I have a good friend who says it this way, “We are not who we are, we are not even who we think we are. We are who we think other people think we are.” (Read that again.) And if you’re in that world no wonder you have such struggles with character!

Character will not emerge from a phony life, which is all the more reason to go back to that word that so characterized Ray’s life: authentic. Know who you are, accept who you are, be who you are. That’s really it in a nutshell.


Pastors and Pornography

Let me ask you a tough question:

Do you struggle with internet pornography?
If you do, you're not alone. Many pastors today are caught in porn's deceptive tentacles and they feel there is no way to escape.
But there is.
I want to recommend an article that we recently published on our Insight for Living Web site. It's Pastor Darrell Brazell's candid story of his addiction—but more importantly—of his freedom from pornography's grasp. You can read his story here.
Let me also add that if you want to contact someone in complete confidentiality, you can connect with our pastoral counseling team on our Pastor-to-Pastor line at 972-473-5102 (Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. central time). They are well-trained and can offer you some practical steps.

You will also find encouragement and resources on our Men's Purity topical page.
If you struggle with porn as a pastor, I know that you want to break free. I'm certain that you want to honor the Lord. Freedom is possible.
I urge you to begin right now.


Doing Too Much . . . Smiling Too Little

The Christian worker is a strange breed. He or she often wants it to look as if the work is terribly hard. In fact, the more difficult and strained the look, the better. Christian workers are notorious for what I call the “tired blood” look, better known as the outdated “missionary image.” Or, better stated, the exhausted, overburdened “religious image.”

They usually carry an old, worn-out Bible and walk with a slump, listing to port. They seldom smile—sort of a “please pity me” image. Makes me want to gag!

Now, I don’t mean to be supercritical. (After all, I, too, am a Christian worker.) The tragic reality is that many of these folks are overworked and some hardly have enough to live on. But I believe you can be in full-time ministry without having to resemble the “poor-me” stereotype.

The happiest people on earth ought to be those of us in God’s service. And we ought to look like it. We have every reason to smile more than anyone else. Even though our work is terribly serious, we ought to have more fun and enjoy our calling more than anybody in any other realm of work. I also believe an individual in cross-cultural ministry or a local pastor ought to be able to enjoy his or her taste in music and live it up, just like anybody else.

Frankly, those of us who look as if we’ve just finished our last piece of bread do not minister very effectively. Those who minister well are those who truly enjoy life. We really don’t need to spend all our time on the negatives of life; there are enough heart-breaking experiences to go around for everybody.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Ministry is not an easy calling. There are times when you must work longer than you should. And those times can occur back to back. But we as pastors and Christian workers don’t need a reminder to work harder. We need a reminder of another sort: “You’re making your job harder than it should be. Share the load. Lighten up! Your work can be easier. Ask someone to help you get these things done.”

Remember, even Jesus did not heal everybody—although He could have. It’s entirely possible that you’re doing too much . . . and unless I miss my guess, you’re smiling too little.


Divine Silence

Ever felt totally removed from God’s awareness? It’s almost like you’re standing at the bottom of a long stairway looking up. The light is off, and even though you knock and call out for a response, nothing happens. There isn’t even a stir.

You are not alone. Many a soul struggles at this very moment with divine silence. You likely know the story by heart. A calamity comes. Afterward, the victim crawls out, cries out, and expects overnight relief. It doesn’t come. To make matters worse, the divine silence can grind on for days, sometimes weeks.

A mate who has been there for years suddenly packs it in and walks out. The one who is left alone to face what seems to be endless responsibilities turns to God for His intervention—for His comforting reassurance—only to be met with silence. That awful silence!

A lingering illness eats away at body and soul day after day. No prayer, it seems, is effective. As the deafening silence continues from above, the pain intensifies below.

Believe it or not, God speaks even in such silence. How? Read Psalm 19. This grand song that directs our attention to the skies has something to say about those anguishing times of silence on earth. In beautiful ways, the heavens above us speak with profound wisdom, without ever saying a word.

The philosopher Kant once wrote:

There are two things that fill my soul with holy reverence and evergrowing wonder—the spectacle of the starry sky that virtually annihilates us as physical beings, and the moral law which raises us to infinite dignity as intelligent agents.1

Kant could have been influenced by the Nineteenth Psalm when he wrote that statement, for this ancient song describes both of the things that filled his soul with reverence and wonder.

Verse 14, one of the most familiar verses in the entire book of Psalms, adequately sums up the psalmist’s feelings in the form of a prayer:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

God has revealed Himself. If you feel deafened by divine silence, remember this truth. We constantly bask in the sunlight of His presence. We have His Word in our language—clearly printed and conveniently punctuated, bound, and preserved for our use. Added to this, He stands as our Rock (our stability, the One on whom we can rely) and our Redeemer (our deliverance from evil acts, evil men, and our own evil nature).

Stay in the Word this week, my friend. Claim His blessings—dare Him to fulfill His promises. The “words of your mouth” and “meditation of your heart” will take on a whole new pattern of godliness and power.

Furthermore, He will no longer seem distant from you or silent to you.


1. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason [1781].