A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe

Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.

Monday, September 24, 2012

God Gave

Something that I don't mention too often is that I have two sons, neither of which is serving the Lord wholeheartedly.  They are "good" boys.  They don't give us much trouble.  We have fun when we are together.  They are pretty trustworthy and generous and just plain entertaining.  And they are starting to display positive attributes of manhood.

But quite honestly, sometimes the fact that they are not walking with God is almost more than I feel I can bear.  As any good mother, I love my sons with a love that can only be described as fierce.  These are the first of our four children that have not accepted Christ and wholeheartedly committed to Him at a young age. Although they have been taught the dangers of living without God, they, like most teens in their generation think that they have time, that they are invincible, and that they know better.  The thought of something happening to them often flits across my mind and it causes me to cry out for merciful protection until they come to know and serve Him.  I am so thankful for all the verses in the Bible concerning our seed.  It is those verses that calm my heart when the devil tries to make me doubt and fear.  You see God made those promises to the righteous and He will honor His promises to me as a believer and will bring my sons to him.  I just wish it was a faster process than it's proven to be.

So, needless to say, they are very often the subject of my prayers.

When they were little I used to tell them that they needed to serve the Lord so that we could all be in heaven together.  The thought of heaven without all my children is very hard to process.  I would be willing to suffer anything if it would be bring them to Christ.

God spoke to me about this this morning.  He knows exactly how I feel.  You see He did suffer.  He suffered the loss of His Son.  God gave up His Son so that my sons could be saved.

As I thought about my sons, how much I love them, how much I desire for them and how hard it would be to lose either one of them, I gained a deeper understanding of what it cost God to provide for their salvation.  God gave up His Son so that I can keep mine.  He killed His Son so that mine might live.  All the curses were laid on His Son so that my sons might be blessed!  If He was willing to do that then and He never changes, then He is willing and able to do it now.   No wonder I (and ALL of my children) will spend eternity at the feet of Jesus in unceasing praise and worship!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

As The Crowds Grew

Luke 5:15-16

15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

What should our response be when we, as ministers, see that the crowd is growing, that our influence is enlarging, that our thoughts and words are sought after by more and more people?  Should we sit back and grow confident in our ministering abilities?  Should we intentionally take steps to increase our ministry by marketing and self-advertisement?  Should we see that God has now gifted us to deal with the masses and establish ourselves as an authority?  Should we have the "I've arrived" attitude? 

That was not the response of Jesus.  He was God!  He had all the right answers.  He knew the Father's plan.  He had intimate knowledge of the Father's heart.  And what did He do as His fame spread abroad?  He withdrew to lonely places and prayed. 

We have nothing of value to offer people without being people of prayer.   We are ambassadors-carriers of anothers message.  We must know the heart and will of the one that sends us to a lost and dying world because His message is the ONLY answer for the world's plight.  Earthly knowledge, experiential wisdom, and advice gleaned from the mind is no help to them.  They must have the mind and heart of God to answer all of their trials and tribulations. 

I know that as our years in ministry progress we find ourselves more and more knowing our need of the lonely place of prayer.  As we grow closer to God, we see more and more our need of Him just for survival.  How much more do we need to seek Him about the survival and flourishing of others?  

We are under-shepherds.  Our Master is the Great Shepherd and He is a Master Shepherd.   Each day we must go to Him concerning the sheep and how to lead them, about what they are doing, how they are acting, what the status of their health is, and where the Lord would have us lead next.  If we do not, we will quickly lose our way and the sheep will suffer for it.  

Jesus, in his flesh, realized that the more that was demanded of Him spiritually, the more He needed to be refilled and refreshed by the Father.  Martin Luther, as well, exhibited this same attitude when he said “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”   Paul instructs us to pray "unceasingly".  He understood that this was the only preparation and the only response in ministry. 

Today, I choose the lonely place of prayer but as I soon learn the only thing lonely about this place is the locale because in this lonely place is the presence of the Living God.  He meets me there.  He refreshes me, He instructs me, He corrects me and He loves me.  It is there that He makes me capable in His service and effective in it's working. 

Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
We are Thine, do Thou befriend us, be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Let us early turn to Thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Let us early turn to Thee.
Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Great Crisis=Great Faith?

Before I go to sleep each night,  I like to prop up my pillows and grab a little something to read for a few minutes before I go to sleep.  So I keep a couple of devotional style books beside my bed.  They  give me just enough to think on so that my last thoughts of the day are of the Lord,  but they do not fill my head with so many thoughts that I can't sleep.  Two of my favorites are "The Valley of vision" (a collection of prayers and prose from the Puritans), and "My Utmost For His Highest" (the classic writing style, not the updated English version).   I do not use these as my daily study of the Word though.  I am a purist.  I just study the Word itself.

If you have a good Pastor, he will sometimes tell you things you should and shouldn't do and often there is a varied response.  Some will just take him at his word and make adjustments in their lives and God will abundantly bless them.  Others have the attitude that says "well, that's just Pastor's opinion, that doesn't mean I have to do it."   Granted, there are ministers who take advantage or who try to force their own personal preferences on people but most people that I know just dismiss what their Pastors say altogether because they really do not view their Pastor in a Biblical way and therefore he is more like someone they hire to give them a nice little talk every Sunday than a shepherd given as a gift by God to help to lead them, care for them and keep them.  I always cringe when I hear people dismissing something that was heavy on their Pastor's heart because it will surely lead them in the wrong direction and it separates them from the flock putting them into a vulnerable position for attack by the enemy.

One example that I see over and over again is this very subject of daily study of the Word and prayer.  For years and years my husband has warned of the dangers of not taking your spiritual life seriously.  Reading a little ditty from a devotional and throwing up some prayers from the car while you're driving to work does not cut it.  Allowing yourself to be so busy that you do not have time to sit undistracted and study the Word and converse with God means that you are too busy and you need to make some adjustments in your schedule.  Now most of us eat more than one snack a day and if all we could have was one snack a day, we would most likely not purchase it from the McDonald's drive-thru.  But to me, this is what we do spiritually when we pick up a 5 minute devotional.  It may be alright on a  normal day but what about when a crisis comes?  Will we be strong enough?  Will we have the endurance we need to get through it victoriously?  My husband thinks not and so does Oswald Chambers.  ( I always love it when someone with some cred backs up my hubby!)

On September 10th he wrote:
"We imaging we would be alright is a big crisis arose; but the big crisis will only reveal the stuff we are made of, it will not put anything into us.  We say "if God gives the call, of course we will rise to the occasion."  You will not unless you have risen to the occasion in the workshop, unless you have been the real thing before God there.  If you are not doing the thing that lies nearest, because God has engineered it; when the crisis comes instead of being revealed as fit, you will be revealed as unfit. Crisis always reveals character.

The private relationship of worshipping God is the great essential of faith.  The time comes when there is no more fig-tree life possible (Jn. 1:48), when it is out in the open, out into the glare and out into the work, and you will find yourself of no value there if you have not been worshipping as occasion serves you in your home.  Worship aright in your private relationships, then when God sets you free you will be ready, because in the unseen life which no one saw but God you have become perfectly fit, and when the strain comes you can be relied upon by God.

You may say "I can't be expected to live the sanctified life in the circumstances I am in; I have no time for praying just now, no time for Bible reading, my opportunity has not come yet; when it does of course, I shall be all right."  No, you will not!  If you have not been worshipping as occasion serves, when you get into work you will not only be worthless yourself, but a tremendous hindrance to those who are associated with you.

The worship of missionary munitions is the hidden, personal, worshipping life of the saint."

Although he wrote this in reference to the preparation for crisis in missionary work, the principle applies to our everyday life and experiences as well.  Waiting until a crisis happens to be spiritual does not work!  Waiting until you are sick to learn healing will not work.  Waiting until you are in a life and death situation to learn salvation will not work.  Waiting until the devil has you pinned down to learn spiritual authority will not work.  The army does not give guns to its soldiers and wait until they are in the midst of a battle to teach them how to aim and shoot.  No, those soldiers are equipped BEFORE they ever step on the battlefield.   That is why they are more often than not victorious! 

This is often the difference between those who experience spiritual victories and those who do not.  In 1999 we had a devastating car accident in which 3 of my 4 children were seriously injured.  Two of them floated between life and death for several days.   For months I thought back to that day and wondered at how my husband and I responded to that situation.  I couldn't understand how we had the strength and the courage to make the decision we made and to do the things we did because they often flew in the face of what paramedics and doctors were saying. I wondered at the peace we had through the whole situation.  It was surely "peace that passed all understanding".    One day, I looked back through my journal at the 6 months prior to that awful day and it hit me.  As I read day after day what the Lord had impressed upon my heart, what I had meditated on, what I had prayed and received in prayer, I realized that God had TOTALLY spent that time preparing us for that accident and I know now that if we had not both been seeking God earnestly with all our hearts for those 6 months prior, two of our children would be dead.  Instead, they are eating us out of house and home and causing us to suffer through the teenage years with them! 

We must be ready for life.  Like a big bully on a school playground, life will just sometimes knock you right on your tukus.  We must be prepared for the fight that will ensue.  We must be strong and ready to fight back so that we can win!  And if it isn't us in the battle, but our children or a friend or a fellow believer, we will be of no value or help to them if we are spiritual weenies! 

Since our spiritual life here on earth determines our eternal destination and occupation, I have to ask myself, what could be of more importance, what could have higher priority in my everyday life than the preparation of my soul for eternity?   There is no higher calling.  But while I'm here on earth, there will be battles and crisis I will have to face.  The greater the crisis, the greater the faith required to overcome and be victorious in it.  And the greater the crisis, the greater the provision that God has laid before it comes but we must go and take that provision from God everyday to insure that we are ready to meet the challenges it presents. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When The Good Life Slaps You In The Face

While perusing face book this morning, I read a comment made by a friend in response to a status posted by one of her friends.  I rarely do this because who has time to read statuses of people you don't even know?  I surely don't and I don't even remember why I clicked on it, it may have been an accident because I often click on things I don't mean to because my laptop is so touchy and I haven't figured out yet how to fix it. 

Anyway the good life I enjoy as a blessing and provision of God just kind of slapped me in the face this morning and reminded me how blessed I am when I read this:

"Got wonderful news in _________ today,,,Back pain is not coming from tumors,,,More likely MS which I can live with....No chemo for awhile...Praise God;;;;I am so pleased.Thank you all for thoughts and prayers"

Wonderful news???  WONDERFUL NEWS???  "Most likely MS which I can live with"???  What a perspective this woman has on life!  

And then, there was this one from a fellow Pastor's wife.  She and her Pastor hubby took their boys to college in another city.  While there her husband got sick so they took him to the emergency room.  They have discovered that he has an acute type of leukemia that is sort of rare, so they are still at the hospital while he gets chemotherapy to try to keep his body from dumping too many white blood cells into his bloodstream which would restrict  his red blood cells from getting the oxygen his body needs where it needs to go.  

"How about a praise, I got a real nights sleep last night! ___ is still feeling not too bad from the chemo. My sister is coming and it is a new day"

I only have to say that there is a grace in the lives of these two women that is powerful!  I've experienced this same grace in dire situations, some as serious as what these women are facing.  What I don't understand is why don't I experience this grace in my life when the most serious thing I face is a broken washing machine or I run over my cell phone with a couple thousand pound mower? (Yes, I did that today!) LOL!  Is God's grace more powerful one day than the next?  Does He reserve "special grace" for those days when we need it more, when we're facing things way bigger than normal?  

I don't think so.  I think that His grace is always the same to all of us all the time.  He does not change!  The key to how much grace we experience is not based on what He has to offer at any given moment but more on how much we take and receive from Him at any given moment.    

John 1:16
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

Ephesians 4:7

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Imagine!  We have received from His FULLNESS!  Do we really know how much that is?  Each of us have received according to the measure of Christ's gift!  The measure of Christ's gift!  And what a gift that is!  His life, His holy Blood, the power of His Resurrection!  It is all ours!  Everyday!

Hebrews 4:16
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need

It is there, waiting for us to come and receive!  He has set the table before us and invites us to come and take!  
2 Timothy 2:1
[ Be Strong ] You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus

How does it manifest in the life of a believer?  I think these two ladies are a perfect example!  I don't know anyone who wants to be in their position, but to be in their position means to experience the fullness of the grace of God.  I think that it almost makes what they're going through worth it.  I've experienced this to be true in my own life.  

And yet, sometimes I quickly forget this grace that is available and allow the little irritations, the inconveniences, and the molehills of life to seem like a mountain.  The disciples of Jesus were like this as well.  Four times in Luke he rebuked them for this same thing and He called it "unbelief".  

"Lord, forgive me for the times when I allow unbelief to crowd out the grace that you have so abundantly provided for me every minute, every hour, every day of my life.  Let me live in the awareness of Your powerful grace, your overpowering peace, and your unfailing love.  Then I will be a witness to the world of all there is to be found in you.  Today I come and receive.  Like a child in a candy shop, let me grab the biggest and the most that I possibly can.  Then I can truly LIVE and realize how good the life you have given me is.  And I will be thankful, oh so thankful for all the goodness and blessing that I enjoy because of what you have provided!"   In Jesus name, Amen.

Time Or Accuracy?

In the sport of IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association), scores are determined by a combination of time and accuracy.   You are timed at each stage of the competition from the first "beep" of the timer to the last shot.
IDPA Target

After your time is recorded, the range officer takes a look at your target and counts the number of holes (or lack of them-I hate that part!) in the target.  There are scoring values on each target which increase the farther from the center of the target you shoot.  There are also penalties, called "procedural errors" that can be scored against you for doing something that would be considered unsafe or unsportsmanlike.  In the end, your times and points and penalties are put into a mathematical formula which produces a final score.  Your goal is to have the lowest time and number of points as possible to produce the lowest score possible.

 Depending on what category range your point totals fall into, you are then assigned a classification.  Every person shoots the same thing to determine what classification you fall into.  I just did this on recently.

When I first began shooting I was, of course, a "novice".  Last weekend, my scores enabled me to move up one classification to "marksman".  And when my scores get even  better I can move up to the classification of "sharpshooter".  Then there's "master" and "expert", but I'm not sure which one comes first or that I'll ever shoot well enough to find out!

If you are a new shooter, like me, you have to find the balance between time and accuracy to achieve the best score possible.  I've come to find out that it is a delicate balance.  My husband shoots fast, but not very accurately.  I, on the other hand, almost always end up on the Top 15 Most Accurate Shooters List.  However, my ranking is always much lower than my husbands which tells me that perhaps  I need to focus a little more on speed  and a little less on accuracy.  However, that scares me because I like to know exactly where the gun is pointed before I pull the trigger.  I'm not confident enough in my aiming skills yet to be able to tell when I'm at least close to being on target.   Every match I think, "oh, I'll just throw caution to the wind and just go through with guns blazing", but I never do.  It might get me a better score, but I'd be a wreck by the time it's all over!  LOL!

The Christian life is also a delicate balance of time and accuracy.  We can dedicate a lot of time to doing things and still end up not being very accurate or fruitful.  Religious activity will quickly take us over and try to tell us that more is better and even more is even more better! (Pardon my English, but it illustrates my point!)   But at the end of the day, there may not be many "hits" on our target.   We must take time to develop accuracy!  Then the time we spend in Christian service will produce the kind of results that we and God desire-everlasting results-fruit that remains!

Matthew 7:21-23
 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

These people were are the "doers" of the church!  They are very busy doing religious activity.  The Lord however calls them evildoers!  They spend loads of time doing all these things "for the Lord" but those works end up meaning nothing.  Their works are not what turns the key to the Kingdom of God.  So the quantity of time is not what is of utmost importance.  Even people today, in cults, spend much time "doing" for the Lord, but it means nothing.  It has no eternal value whatsoever. 

The Lord never was very interested in quantity.  He was more interested in the widow's mite than the large offerings of the rich.  He was more interested in short, heartfelt prayers than the prayers of
those that thought they "would be heard for their many words".  He chose the 12, not the multitude.  The path that leads to eternal life is narrow and "few" there be that find it. 

Religion tells us that deeds are very important, after all, we will be judged by our deeds!  Yes, that's true!  A popular doctrine I hear touted by many t.v. preachers today is that we will be judged by what is in our hearts not by what we do.  If you can prove that to me in scripture I will be a believer but every Bible sitting on my shelf tells me otherwise. How convenient it would be to be able to be a stinker on the earth and still go to heaven!  It would be so much easier than living a holy life!  Friends, our deeds are proof of what is in our heart!  Therefore our hearts are judged by our deeds!  Let no man deceive you on this! 

Luke 6:45
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

However, we can use our deeds to know what is in our hearts which will give us an inkling of how accurate we truly can be in the Spirit.   If our hearts are mucked up with all kinds of junk from the world and from our life before Christ, our accuracy will be way off!  The Lord chooses and uses clean vessels, ones that are pure inside and out.  The only avenue we can take to get that way is through sanctification which is the ongoing process of the Christian life in which we spend much time in prayer listening to the Spirit and allowing Him to change us into the image of His Son.  It is the time that we spend telling the Lord how much we need Him to accomplish ANYTHING of eternal value either in our hearts or in the world. 

In the shooting world, there is a saying "slow is smooth, smooth is fast".   If we start out slow and develop smooth movements-smooth draws, smooth magazine changes, and smooth steps-this will make us accurate.  As we become more and more trained in smoothness, it becomes more and more natural to move that way and we automatically become faster without losing our accuracy.  Soon our names will begin to move up the list of every list of shooting results. 

It's much the same way in the spiritual world.  The first thing we need to do is what both Jesus and the Apostle Paul did-get away alone with the Lord.  Jesus went into the wilderness and scripture tells us that He came out FULL of power!  The Apostle Paul went away for some years before starting his ministry where he was taught by Jesus Himself and when he did minister, he was very accurate and productive!   You see, we get our instructions from the Lord.  HE decides what, when, how and where He wants us to be doing.  If we do not know His voice well enough to get His full instruction we can end up doing something outside of His plan, which is worthless!  We can even end doing something wrong, which is worse!  God would rather have you accomplish one thing rightly and accurately than 100 things wrongly!

Many churches want to grab a new believer and immediately get them involved in "doing" something when what we should do is grab new believers and immediately get them on the road to "being" something.  It's the being that produces the doing.  Faith without works is dead, but works without faith are also dead!  When we have heard a clear call from the Lord, when we have received His instruction, when we have allowed Him to prepare us for service THEN we ARE and we DO with accuracy! 

Maybe you are feeling that you aren't very accurate in the Kingdom of God.  STOP what you're doing and take some time to just seek the Lord.  The Lord can do more in one day than we could ever hope to accomplish in a lifetime.  He isn't interested in what we do for Him, He is interested in how much we let Him do through us.  My husband always says "The success of our spiritual lives does not depend on how much of the Spirit we have.  It depends on how much of us the Spirit has!"   The Spirit takes His time in making us accurate.  Let Him have His way in you today so that when you stand before the Lord and all that you did is recounted in the court of heaven, afterward you will hear, "well done my good and faithful servant.  Enter into my rest."


Monday, September 10, 2012

Red and Yellow, Black and White

"Jesus loves the little children-all the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white-they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world."

Yesterday I received these from a friend.  Aren't they beautiful?  The photo does not nearly do their brightness and cheeriness justice!   I hope they last a very long time so this morning I went out to the kitchen to check the water level in the vase to make sure they had plenty to drink.  I noticed something.  Some of the dye that makes these flowers the bright colors that they are had seeped out the bottom of the stem and into the water in the vase.  The water was red.  I don't understand all the artsy-fartsy/scientific reasons for all of this because I'm just not that knowledgeable about such things.  Color wheels make my head spin!  However, I did have a thought that I haven't thought on for awhile.  This is exactly how God sees the redeemed.

The church of God is world-wide.  Revelation tells us that every tribe and every kindred will worship all together at the throne of God someday.  I try to picture this in my mind.  The sea of glass, the saints dressed in white, the creatures flying about the throne of God crying out "holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts",  the leaders of the 12 tribes of  Israel, the 12 disciples, the Apostle Paul and all those who came after, and the redeemed-people of every age and every nationality bowing before the glory and splendor of God the Father and Christ the Son, the presence of the Holy Spirit in all His fullness, the church is all it's perfection and completeness--Oh MY, it's a brain-fuse blower!

I honestly doubt that at that time we will be thinking about the African to our right or the Asian to our left, or the American in front of us or the Latin behind us because we will no longer be any nationality.  We will simply be like Christ.  That is why God will be pleased with our praise because we will be wearing bright robes of righteousness that have been dipped and washed in the blood of His Son.  That is what God will see.  

Those flowers in my vase make a beautiful combination that is pleasing to look at.  They would not be nearly as stunning if they were all one color.   But when the brightness of that color all runs together, it produces red.  God loves His church-His whole blood bought church!  And so should we.

Because God is limitless, He created human beings with the potential to all be unique in their own way while also being representative of a vast number of people groups.  At the end of the day, we are all human, all born in sin, all in need of a Savior.  It shouldn't matter if you're black, white or purple, if you speak broken English or fluent English or no English, if you dress differently, wear a head covering, cut your hair, read something other than the King James Version of the Bible,  or prefer not to eat meat.  What should and DOES matter is that you are blood-bought by the Lamb of Heaven and washed in His blood because quite honestly we are the only ones that see the differences.  When God looks upon the redeemed here on earth, all He sees is that they are covered with that precious blood, sealed with the Holy Spirit and therefore are His. It is what distinguishes us from the rest of humanity.  

It is also that blood that presents us all on level ground at the foot of the cross.  Sure, some nations have more revelation and teaching than others, but that in no way affects the spiritual potential or achievements of a spiritual man.  Spiritual men are all taught by the same Spirit and receive the same teaching.  They operate and work by the same Spirit.  They accomplish what they accomplish by the same Spirit.  To look down on a 3rd world believer is wrong.  To look at a more knowledgeable believer with disdain is just as wrong.  To judge a young one in the Lord is wrong, even though their faults may still be quite visible.  And to disregard those wise in the Lord is a travesty but it happens in our world everyday.  We sometimes forget that the Holy Spirit speaks every language fluently!

I am looking forward to the day when all the redeemed will stand together in one crowd, in complete and perfect union with Christ and with each other, and worship the Lord of Heaven and Earth!  On that day there will be no need for diversity ideologies because we will all be one just as it has always supposed to be.  There will be no denominations, no people groups feuding, no sexist discrimination, only Christ!  What a day that will be!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Are You A Minister That The Sheep Should Be Wary Of?

"Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market place, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, who devour widow's houses and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation."  Mark 12:38-40

This was not a good situation.  The leaders of the church of Jesus day were corrupt.  They strutted around town like they were gods to be respected and obeyed and claimed to get their license from God Himself yet they did not know His Word.  They made up their own rules at the expense of God's rules.  They didn't even recognize God Himself as they stumbled over Christ.  The people of that day looked to them for they were the only spiritual leadership they had, so when they needed help or spiritual guidance, they looked to these men and did what they said to do in an effort to please God and receive from Him.  How sad!

I guess things haven't changed much.  I know way too many so-called and self-appointed "shepherds" who are just like these men described in the book of Mark. Some desire to be ministers because they think that it will  afford them "respectful greetings in the market place, chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets".  Ministry is certainly NOT something you do to gain or improve self-esteem!

I've been around a lot of ministers in my 27 years of ministry.  Many of them I have socialized with are well known enough that if I mentioned their names you would recognize them.  You may even watch their t.v. shows. You may even send them money!   Truly, God had called and gifted them, but as one of them so often said  "your ministry may take you places that your gift cannot keep you.  You must have character to keep you."  Unfortunately, this minister did not follow his own advice and develop his character and ended up falling and staining the name of Christ.  Others I have known have started out well, but due to this same problem have aborted the call of God on their life and have become proud and arrogant dividing the Body of Christ and leaving a trail of sickly, bleeding and dying sheep in their wake all the while believing that they are "ministering".   Others just plainly were never called to ministry, they just went.  These usually are compassionate people but end up frustrated and unfruitful because they are not graced and empowered to do what they are trying to do.  Honestly, they are living in disobedience, trying to do something to which God has not called them to and neglecting what He has called them to.

To me, a true minister is not defined by his gift, but by his character for without Godly character, how can you truly minister in the Spirit?  If you are a minister and you are prayer-less or wordless how can you have the wisdom and knowledge that you need to truly help and guide the sheep?  You CAN'T!  So you end up "devouring widow's houses and for appearance's sake offering long prayers" that avail nothing!  You can give worldly wisdom, at best, or what sounds right to you but in light of poor character, what seems right to you may be, in God's eyes, totally wrong!   In fact, you may end up damaging the sheep more than helping them while you live off of their offerings. You are a false shepherd!

Most ministers I know that are truly, obviously called did not want to enter the ministry.  The weight of the responsibility was something that they shied away from because they did not feel competent or capable to minister.  These men and women are ones who recognize their need of the help of the Holy Spirit DAILY to do the work God has called them to.  They know that they must be DAILY at the feet of their Master seeking His will, His message, His wisdom for each of the sheep that has been placed in His care.  Does that mean that we pray for every sheep, every day?  Of course not.  That would be impossible and would soon become religious activity.  (So don't send in your $1,000.00 to some lying dog  on t.v. who promises to pray for you by name everyday for a year!  You're not being a good steward of God's money!  Honestly, you're better off praying for yourself and sowing that $1000.00 to the mission field!).

Some days I think I've seen it all, heard it all and experienced it all in ministry.  I wouldn't say that ministry has been particularly kind to me or my husband or my family.  But be that as it may and even more so, I still need the voice, the wisdom, and the guidance of God in every situation where I deal with the sheep.  My advice should be from God's Word, strictly and exclusively.  My methods should be according to His ways, not the ways of the world, our society or even the latest, greatest book written by a money seeking minister.  (Honestly I just wish people would read their Bibles primarily and get the revelation that the Holy Spirit would like them have concerning it instead of counting on someone else to "expound" on it for them!)

I never felt a "call" to be in ministry.   I never wanted to be in ministry.  But I am.  And I minister.  I'm still not exactly sure, in the big picture of things, what my title (if I had one or wanted one) would be in the Kingdom of God.  I just take things one day at a time knowing that if I just follow Christ DAILY, I will walk in His will, I will fulfill His call on my life and I will receive my reward.  And that's all I need to know!

It would be very easy for me to become like a scribe.  You see, I attend a church where we are respected, honored and trusted.  I could grow confident in my experience in the ministry and in the fruit I have seen come from it.  I could easily allow myself to think that I have somehow earned or deserve the respect that I receive from the sheep.  I could even use the sheep to build my self-esteem and my bank account if I wanted to.  It's happened to so many others!  And I am susceptible to the same trappings as all of those who have fallen or have left the service of the Master in order to become their own master.  So I daily ask myself these questions:

  • Am I spending time and growing in the Word of God DAILY?
  • Am I spending time in prayer DAILY-LISTENING to what God would say to me about myself, about my relationship with Him, about my character, about my ministry?
  • Do I truly love the sheep that God has placed in my care or do I tolerate or try to ignore them?
  • Do I deem myself in anyway "higher" than them in worth, talent, or gifting?
  • Do I see myself as a servant of God AND a servant of the sheep?  
  • Am I willing to put their needs ahead of my own?
  • Am I willing to give up a blessing that could be mine so that they may be blessed?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my own ambitions and dreams, if need be, so that I can minister effectively to them?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice their "liking" me to lovingly administer care and healing to them because I know that this is ultimately what is best for them?  (The sheep do not always like what the shepherd does to them but they still follow him anyway and they are healthy and strong.)
  • Do I have the Word of the Lord when I speak to them or am I speaking out of worldly wisdom or worldly knowledge of their situation?  
Some would say, that's a lot of questions!  That's a lot of work!  Yes, it is!  But it is the work that the Lord has called me to do.  It is what He, solely by His grace and power enables me to do on a daily basis.  I do not want or need accolades or titles.  In fact, I cringe when our church blesses us the way they do because I truly wonder what in the world we did to cause them to honor us the way they do.  So many days I second guess myself and wonder if I truly had the mind and heart of God when I spoke to someone.  And I tremble every time I am put in a situation where Godly counsel is required because I so want to give the heart and mind of God to that person.  

God takes the ministry seriously!  It says so in this passage!  Ministers are placed in a position of receiving "greater condemnation".  But we can also be in the position to receive greater commendation and double honor.  Which would you receive if you stood before the Lord today?  You may not be a t.v. crook but are you a minister that the sheep should be wary of or can they trust that you have the mind and heart of God for them?  Are you someone you would trust if you were part of the flock?   These are sobering questions.  We must have the right answers!