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Do you pray for your Pastor?

Do you pray for your Pastor?

The pastoral office is an office that is not very well respected today. No one is impressed with our title, education or experience. It was not always the case. Old pastors tell me stories of when they were so well respected that they could show up at one of their members’ homes, uninvited and unannounced, and be welcomed in for dinner by the insistence of a family who was honored that the pastor would pay them a visit.

          These are different times now where pastors have lost the respect of their people and the general public. Some of this is self-inflicted. Pastors have fallen into sins, we have neglected prayer and study and therefore have no message from God’s Word for our starving sheep. Our societies view of pastors is now skeptical at best. We are kept at arm’s length and considered strange by our neighbors. Pastors, in general, are no longer esteemed, well-respected men. I think much of this is self-inflicted. We have lost respect because we have not earned it. There is a sizeable gap between how an average church member views their pastors and how the Bible says church members should view their pastor. The acknowledgement of this gap is, I believe, the first step in rebuilding this God ordained relationship in the Church.  Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

A pastor’s calling is to patrol the outer walls of your soul as a watchman with or without your respect. However, the honor a church member shows his pastor allows him to pastor with Joy. Don’t underestimate the power of joy! Joy is fuel to a pastor’s tank. A joyless pastor can perhaps be effective for a season but he will not endure long without joy which we so desperately need. You, the church member, can provide us with this as we labor for your growth in Christ. 1 Thess. 5:12 says “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you”

All pastors struggle with leading because of the weight of responsibility God has called us to bear. We are often reminded by God of our humanity. Our own sin and unworthiness never escape our thoughts. We are humbled by our lack of talent and mental inadequacies. God reminds us of this to keep us humble. Satan reminds us of this to depress us. Spurgeon said, “who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust? Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment.”        

Few people can endure failures. Even fewer can endure success. Most do not have the character and self-awareness to avoid the flaming arrow of pride sent by the enemy the day after a victory. King David fell only after his many victories in battle. Jonah sits under a worm-eaten bush requesting that God take his life after his message results in the salvation of 120,000 persons.

All Christians have a target on their backs. Pastors have a larger one. Satan knows that all he has to do is to destroy the pastors to destroy the Churches. All Christians deal with adversity. But the adversity a pastor deals with is greater. I say all this to ask you a question. Do you pray for you pastor?

Posted by Matt Williams
in Bible

Are you Neglecting the Old Testament?

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Are you Neglecting the Old Testament?

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

What are these “Scriptures” that Paul is referring to in this verse? I thought the term “Scriptures” was a term designated only for the 66 books of the Bible? Since the NT (New Testament) was not yet complete, Paul refers to, what could only be a reference to the OT (Old Testament) when he calls them “Scriptures.” This is important for us to consider because I fear that we are living in a time when so much emphasis is placed on the “new” to the neglect of the “old.” After all, it is old. Really old! But the age of these “sacred writings” (2 Tim. 3:15) is exactly why we should place great emphasis on, not only reading the OT, but treating these Scriptures the way the NT authors did. Have you read every book in the OT? I imagine, if you are like me, you have read Matthew’s gospel more than Hosea. My question is, why is this? Here are 3 reasons you should read the OT.

  1. The God of the NT is the same as the God of the OT

One of the reasons people neglect the OT is because they do not like the God of the OT. After all Jesus is so nice in the NT and God is so mean in the OT right? Let’s look at this a little deeper. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” God does not change. He is the same in the old as he is in the new. This is so comforting. Also notice in this verse that the immutability of God is the reason why the people are not consumed. The notion that the OT God is only a God of wrath and the NT Jesus is only a God of love is…well…just not true. The grace and compassion of God spew out of every page of the OT and there are plenty of “woes” cast from Jesus in the NT. Consider Jonah’s confession about God when he says, “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” The character of God is exactly why Jonah fled! He did not want those wicked Ninevites to meet the real God who relents from disaster. You say, “But what about all the foreign armies God sent to destroy Israel, God’s chosen people?” You are forgetting about the years of warnings God graciously gave Israel to turn from their sin. The loving thing for God to do was discipline his son Israel. Even in the mist of their discipline Lamentations records that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” If you have the impression that God is only a mean-spirited God in the OT then you need to read it again or perhaps for the first time with a new set of lenses.

  1. If you neglect the Old Testament you are neglecting Jesus

 

The whole of the 66 books of the Bible is about Jesus. The OT speaks of a coming deliverer and the NT looks back on his life and explains the significance of it. Jews spoke of the OT in three main parts; The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. Recall Jesus words at the end of the Luke’s gospel when he told his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Lk. 24:44). Did you catch it? The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets were all written about Jesus. Just a few verses earlier Luke tells us about Jesus talking to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and says, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” In John 5:46 Jesus says, “if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” To the degree that you neglect the OT is the degree that you are neglecting Jesus.

 

  1. The NT explains the OT

What is the best commentary ever written on the OT? You answered correctly if you said the NT. This is not to demean the NT to a level that is not scripture. It absolutely is. This is my simple way of making the point that the NT explains the OT. You would have a lot of questions if you watched The Two Towers before you watched The Fellowship of the Ring, wouldn’t you? Why read book two before book one? The new does not replace the old. It fulfills it. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Mt. 5:17-18). Read the old stuff my friends. Your passion for Jesus will increase if you understand the stage that was set for him by God the Father. By reading and understanding the OT you will gain a greater appreciation for NT.

Posted by Matt Williams
in Bible

Rest

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Rest 

I wanted to write about the topic of rest because it is the season I just came out of and because I believe God has taught me many things through rest that I want to share with you. Although this post is written mainly for my fellow pastors, I believe Christians in general can take principles from this to help them.  

I wish I could tell you that I came to the point where I realized I needed to rest on my own but I cannot. I am a pastor. I take pride in constant study and producing things useful for ministry. I am used to counseling people and feel a sense of accomplishment when I do. However, God, in His own perfect way, recently brought me to a place in my life that I have never been before. Through several different events I came to the place where I realized that I was not ok. I needed help. I needed to sit on the other side of the counseling desk. I needed rest. Just writing it is hard for me. I am young and in good health. I make sure to sleep and eat well so that I can endure the things I must endure to pastor. There was nothing I was doing “wrong” to bring me to this point. And that is the point. Let me explain.  

            The circumstances that led to my decision to take a few extra weeks off from the church were all outside of my control. I was controlling what I could and yet God brought me to this place to teach me, yet again, of His sovereignty. A person may be doing all of the right things and God still choose to bring low to make a point. The point is this. God is in control, not me. How many times must I learn and relearn this lesson before the knowledge of it becomes something I embrace? Learn it we must and learn it well if we are going to ever succeed in ministering to others to embrace God’s sovereignty. Please allow me to share 5 things God is teaching me through rest. 

  • When I rest, I am being like God. Remember, God instituted rest when He created everything. It has always been the practice of faithful Christians to step away for a season to recuperate. How often did Jesus withdraw to the mountain? God showed me that I was in error to labor continuously without rest. What was worse is that I was using God’s call on my life to pastor as the reason for not resting. Many of us unceasingly work and use God as the motivation when the real issue is our pride not God’s call on our lives. If you seek to be like God then rest once in a while.  
  • Resting reminds me of reality. If we are honest with ourselves, the reason we kept on working without rest is fear of reality. The real reason I kept putting of rest is because God needs me, right? I mean, what would happen to the church if I just stepped away? In my church I am the only pastor. The church would just fall apart right? Wrong my friend. God does not need me to accomplish His work and He does not need you either. Let this sober reality wash over you like a hot shower. It will be healing to your soul brothers. God does not need you. He is big enough. It is pride to think otherwise. God is not impressed with our talents and work ethic. This is not merely lip service to a Biblical command to rest. It is fact. Read it again. God does not need you. You are easily replaceable. As hard as this was for me to accept, I came to accept this reality as the means by which God lifted the self-imposed burden on my pastoral shoulders.  
  • Resting reinforces your calling and reignites your fire. I never realized how tired I was until I took the time to rest! I also did not realize how my ministry could be blessed by doing nothing. Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students says,  

  

“It is wise to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. On, on, on forever, without recreation, may suit spirits emancipated from this “heavy clay,” but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry “Halt!” and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure.”  

  

I remember desiring to have a wife long before God gave me one. I think part of the reason God made me wait was to make me appreciate a wife when He decided to give me one. Resting, likewise, has made me miss ministry. When was the last time you said that? Your people notice your zeal or lack thereof. Has your fire, which used to burn hot, been reduced to a spark? If so you may need to rest and remember why you fell in love with serving in Christ’s church to begin with.  

  • Resting provides others with an opportunity. If you are a fellow pastor I’m sure you thought at one point or another, “Boy if I could just get more volunteers in my church then I could actually concentrate on the things God has called me to do.” Do I need to keep writing on this point or do you know what I am about to say? Resting provides others with the opportunity to step up. When you step back and rest, I think you will be surprised just how the body steps in. However, many of us don’t for fear of just that. When people step up in your absence they may not only fill your shoes but fill them better. This would be a problem for the insecure pastor. However, if our motive is the overall health of the church then rest and leave the rest up to God.  
  • Resting gives others an appreciation for what you do. Now let me invert that argument in number 4. When you rest, your people will realize just how much they miss you and just how much you do for them. For instance, when other men in your church preach for you they realize just how hard it is and will appreciate the work you put into your sermons week in and week out. People are sometimes tempted to think they can do the pastors job and even do it better. By resting and allowing others to fill in, some will realize that this is simply not true and will communicate that to their friends. A business man in our congregation once said to me, “I cannot imagine doing your job. It is so much harder than mine.” While we need to guard against pride, it would not be a bad thing if churches were reminded that good pastors don’t just grow on trees. I hope this encourages my fellow pastors and brothers and sisters in Christ. May God bless you with rest in due time.  

 

Posted by Matt Williams

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