Pastor Appreciation

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

October is known for many things. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Liver Awareness Month, Healthy Lung Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Infertility Awareness Month, Spina Bifida Awareness Month, SIDS Awareness Month, Dental Hygiene Month and so many more. It’s also Pastor Appreciation Month. On top of all these other things that you may support, don’t forget to honor your pastor.

I Thessalonians 5:12-13 says, “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give spiritual guidance. Show them respect and wholehearted love because of their work. (NLT)” Paul knew that being a minister is often thankless work. They give and give, but rarely receive. They don’t do it for the monetary rewards (which usually aren’t much). They do it because when you’re called to serve, nothing else will satisfy.

A simple “Thank you” goes a long way. A card that tells them how they’ve ministered to you works as well. Each of us have different ways we can show appreciation to those who do the Lord’s work. At our church, we showcase a different minister each week. The church shows appreciation through applause and someone makes their favorite dish. It’s a simple way to say thanks and to show our appreciation.

Paul said to honor them which is to show them respect for the work they do. Most church goers don’t see the late night phone calls and texts. They don’t know about the all night hospital visits where they stand next to a family member who needs support. No one stops to think that the same pastor who is there offering support is hurting too as one of their members lays in that bed. They also don’t see the hours of counseling given or the countless prayers that are said on behalf of those in their care. These men and women deserve more honor than we can possibly give.

As we wear our different colored ribbons this month to bring attention to the causes that are near and dear to our heart, don’t forget to give attention to those who give you spiritual guidance. Find ways to say “Thank you” for all they do. Look for opportunities to honor them. They work hard, pray hard and serve hard. A pat on the back or a word of encouragement will put fuel in their tank to keep going. Each of us have been impacted by a minister. It’s time we let them know.

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Priorities

When I was in the eighth grade, the 3rd generation of Nike Air Jordan’s came out. I wanted them badly, but my parents couldn’t afford them. They were $100 which was an unheard of price for shoes back then. I went out and mowed lawns all over the neighborhood just so I could buy them. One night, on an overnight basketball trip, someone pulled the fire alarm. The first thing I did when I woke up was to look for my shoes. It wasn’t to try to get out of the building. My desire to be seen with a cool pair of shoes was greater than my desire to get out of a burning building.

We all know the phrase, “Keeping up with the Jones’.” We would probably all say we don’t try to, but what if we looked it it a different way? What if we looked at it as wanting what God didn’t give us? Whether we’re doing it to try to impress other people or because of our own greed, it’s wrong. It’s easy to see this in other people, but difficult to pinpoint in our own lives. We reason with ourselves that we deserve it, or that it will make us happy. So we begin to want things that we don’t have and then do what it takes to get them. The problem is we then have two categories of items: what God has given us and what we’ve gotten for ourselves. We remove God from being our provider.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, ‘I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you’” (MSG). It’s not wrong to want to better yourself or your life or to have nice things. It becomes wrong when that’s all we think about and it takes the place of our desire for God. When we want the creation more than the Creator, we have our priorities out of alignment. If we will seek first the Kingdom of God, all these things will be given to us. What are you seeking first in your life?

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Mental Choices

If you ever get a personal email from me, my usual signature is, “Choose to make it a great day!” I’ve learned that if you don’t choose your attitude, either your day or someone else will. I know what it’s like to live under Murphy’s Law where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I had a day once where I was driving about 600 miles. On the way, my car spun out during a snow storm. I ended up 50 feet from the road sunk in mud that was up to my knees. After getting wrenched out, my heater quit working. I got a drive through coffee, but it spilled in my lap looking like I wet my pants. Then both headlights went out at the same time. The store only had one, so I replaced just one. I then got pulled over by the police for having only one headlight. That was a bad day.

I can tell you that it’s hard to have a good attitude on a day like that, but I’ve learned that if I don’t, I can get on a streak of bad days. We tend to bring things into our lives that are most in line with our thoughts and attitude. How we choose to see the world determines what we focus on. If we’ve got a bad attitude, we’ll see all the negative things happening to us. If we choose a good attitude, we’ll see the good around us. As Christians, we need to remember that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Even when bad things come into our life, knowing that God can work it out for our good can change our attitude.

Proverbs 15:15 says, “Everything seems to go wrong when you feel weak and depressed. But when you choose to be cheerful, every day will bring you more and more joy and fullness” (TPT). I like to start each day quoting David, “This IS the day that the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!” When things go wrong, I repeat it. When multiple things go wrong, I stop and pray for God to open my eyes to see what He wants me to find in it, and to give me the strength to endure. We can have joy on the worst of our days by the mental choices we make, praying for God’s help and meditating on His Word.

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Learning To Love

It’s no secret that we live in a very divisive time in history. Our country is split almost evenly among two ideals, and each side believes they are right and the other is wrong. We have turned against each other politically, racially and ideologically. Each side openly mocks the other, and when one side doesn’t get their way, it feels like the world is going to end for them. Our emotions are supercharged to the point we actually think that the people on the other side are our enemies. It has gotten so bad that some think that we are headed for another Civil War.

I recently got to hear Miles McPherson preach. He spoke about how we’ve been placed into groups and how we’ve learned to refer to people by their group name. When you and I pick a side, it automatically puts us against people. Think about that for a second. You and I as Christians have allowed the culture of this world to turn us against people. People that Jesus loves and died for. How can you and I share the Gospel or show what a godly life looks like if we are against people? We’ve been blinded into thinking our battle is against flesh and blood when we’ve been specifically told it’s not.

Malachi 2:10 says, “Don’t we all come from one Father? Aren’t we all created by the same God? So why can’t we get along? Why do we desecrate the covenant of our ancestors that binds us together?” (MSG) It’s time for you and I to take off the world’s lenses and see people as brothers, sisters and neighbors instead of as groups and enemies. We can’t afford to fall into the trap of turning people into our enemies. We must learn to love instead, and to see people the way God sees them…as His creation that He loves and sent His Son to die for.

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Being Rescued

One evening, some friends and I rented a sailboat and captain to sail us up and down the Nile River in Cairo for an hour. After we went down stream for a while, he turned the boat around and started going back to our point of origin. To do that, he had to sail from one side to the other to go upstream. On one of those trips to the far side, he didn’t turn the boat in time and we got caught in some reeds. We yelled out for help to all the boats going by, but no one could hear us. Almost an hour went by before someone stopped. They went across the Nile, got a boat with a motor on it to come pull us out and rescue us.

One thing I’m constantly reminded of is that God is on a rescue mission. We are in need of rescuing, but we don’t always cry out for help. We try to do it ourselves or worse, we don’t acknowledge the situation we’re in. God is waiting to rescue our soul, our lives, our families and ourselves, but it takes us recognizing we can’t do it and that we need Him. He is a rescuer by nature and wants to rescue each of us. If you’re in a situation that needs rescuing, call to Him today and see how He comes to rescue you.

Here are some Bible verses on God rescuing us.

1. Then [in light of the fact that all this is true, be sure that] the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

2 PETER 2:9 AMP

2. God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it!

John 3:17 TPT

3. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:13 NLT

4. Is anyone crying for help? GOD is listening, ready to rescue you.

Psalm 34:17 MSG

5. But my Sovereign Lord, help me as you have promised, and rescue me because of the goodness of your love.

Psalm 109:21 GNT

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Free In The Fire

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

One of my favorite Bible stories when I was a kid had to be of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The King ordered that everyone bow down to his golden statue when they heard the music played. Of course the three Hebrew boys refused to do it. The king summoned them and ordered them to bow or to be thrown into a furnace. They told him to his face that they wouldn’t do it. He got so angry, he heated up the furnace seven times hotter than normal, bound their hands and feet and had them thrown into it,

The fire was so hot that the men who were throwing them into it died. When the men didn’t return right away, the King went to look. He turned and asked the people around him, “Didn’t we throw three into the fire?” The people around him said, “That’s right.” He replied, “But look! I see four men walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed. And the fourth one looks like the son of the gods!” He then called out to them to come out of the fire. When he examined them, not a hair was singed nor did they smell like smoke.

Many times in this life you and I will feel like we are bound up. There are times when we feel like we are in prison. Our hands and feet are shackled. We feel like we aren’t going anywhere and we can’t do anything. Being physically tied up is bad enough, but to be mentally or spiritually tied up is worse. It’s a real feeling of helplessness. When you couple that with walking through the fires of life, it can make things feel hopeless. Even in those times, we are to trust in God and His plan.

These three guys were not alone in the fire. In fact, it was in the fire that they were set free from their bondage. The scripture says they were walking around freely in the fire. God did not abandon them in the worst of times. He was standing there with them. It reminds me of the promise He makes to you and I in Isaiah 43:2. He said, “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – because I am your God, your personal God.”

That’s a promise you can hold into when you’re walking through deep waters, between a rock and a hard place or in the fire of oppression as the New Living Translation puts it. That version says, “You’ll not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” It goes on to say He won’t let any of these things destroy you because you are precious to Him. He gave His all for you. He loves you and will not let these present circumstances destroy you. He says you can walk freely in the fire. Trust in Him. He will not let you down. When you come out on the other side, you won’t be burned.

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Jump Out Of The Boat

To me, one of the most interesting decisions anyone made in the Bible came from Peter and the disciples in John 21:3. Peter told the disciples, “‘I’m going fishing.’ And they all replied, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and fished through the night, but caught nothing” (TPT). Three years earlier, Jesus had called Peter away from the fishing boats to fish for men instead. For three years, they watched Jesus perform miracle after miracle. Then they saw Jesus crucified and resurrected. He wanted them to meet Him in Galilee, yet when they arrived, they went back to their old jobs.

I don’t know how long it was after they returned to Galilee before they went fishing, but it’s very indicative of what we all do. God tells us to wait, we wait, He doesn’t show up during our time table and we do something else. We reason, “Maybe we missed God.” Instead of moving forward, we go backwards to what’s familiar to us. We pick up our old nets and step away from our calling. Just like this night of fishing for the disciples, it’s unproductive and unsatisfying. Once you’ve had a taste of your calling, it’s hard to be fulfilled by anything else. Yet Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He chases after us like the lost sheep and redirects us.

I love in this story how when Jesus tells them to cast on the other side and the nets fill with fish, Peter doesn’t wait to bring them in. He jumps out of the boat and swims to shore. I believe that’s what God is asking each us to do. It’s time we jump out of the boat of the familiar and moved toward Jesus. It may be uncharted waters for you, but the fulfillment you seek is to be using the gifts He’s given you in the calling He’s placed on your life. If you’re in the sea of the familiar right now, jump out of the boat and swim to where God is calling you.

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