Pastor Appreciation Month is Not Working!

Yes, it feels really weird to be writing this blog post.

After all, I am a pastor.

But I am convinced this post, and others like it, are critically important for churches today.  Rather than try and say all I want to say, I think I will simply let well-known pastor, Thabiti Anyabwile, say it for me (Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic).

And my conclusion is that for all the hub-bub about Pastor Appreciation Month, it isn’t working.  O sure, it might be raking in thousands of dollars for Christian bookstores / retailers, but it is doing nothing to actually solve the crisis (and yes, it’s a crisis, read the post below please), happening among pastors and churches today.

Two of my close pastor friends, both faithful preachers of the Word who loved Christ and people, have recently been ousted (fired, in business language) by ungodly, unbiblical processes (a coup, in political language).  Behind the back meetings.  Behind the back gossip and false accusations.  Behind the back coalition building and grumbling.  It makes me sick.  And if my Bible is true, it makes God sick too.

The only solution is humble submission to the inerrant Word of God by those in churches claiming to be followers of Jesus.  A return of Holy Spirit-empowered obedient faith is the answer.  Churches must once again have the spiritual spine to structure themselves and order themselves and relate to one another according to the New Testament.  Period.  By this, Christ is highly exalted, and pastors and members flourish under the Spirit-filled good reign of God the Father.

 

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I Knew a Preacher Once

I knew a Preacher once

Who was called of the Lord

To stand in a pulpit

And open up the Word

 

I knew a Preacher once

Who said, “Thus says the Lord.”

His passion was singular

And his allegiance to only One

 

I knew a Preacher once

Who studied relentlessly the Book

Holy Spirit fire in his eyes

When to the Sacred Task he took

 

I knew a Preacher once

Who taught his children at home

To cast all hope upon Christ

And from His pierced side never to roam

 

I knew a Preacher once

Who never coddled sin

But preached Christ crucified

The only hope of men

 

I knew a Preacher once

Betrayed by so-called friends

Because to Scripture alone

His heart and life would bend

 

I knew a Preacher once

Whose anointing grew with age

No jokes or worldly eloquence

Just simple speech of God’s sage

 

I knew a Preacher once

Who sought no fortune or fame

If only I could hear him again

Herald Jesus’ holy name

 

I knew a Preacher once

But O, I dare not be sad

For the blessing was all mine

To call the Preacher, Dad.

 

When my day finally comes

To fly to my heavenly home

The Preacher and I will sing praise

To our God, the Three-in-One!

 

And may those I leave behind say

I knew a Preacher

Once . . .

 

*Dedicated to my hero and still my favorite Preacher:

Don Wilson McWhorter

June 16, 1946 – September 13, 2017

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Comparison – The Root of Many Sins

By Lori Beard

Recently, I was standing in the check out line at Walmart on a Sunday right after church (I know, I know….really). But here I was. And in front of me were two ladies practicing great patience and kindness with the cashier who was not really happy to be there. They had clearly just left church too. They were dressed in flowered skirts to their knees and their hair was neat as a pin. I immediately thought of a much younger; much more arrogant me.

I remembered seeing sweet ladies like this when I was in my twenties and feeling like I was so much more able to love and connect with broken people around me than these pious stick-in-the-mud ladies (as I walk into church in my shorts and tank top). I remember believing that, because I dressed less stylish and less “obviously Christian,” lost people could surely connect to me better. I was so sure of that. So arrogant. On this day, standing in Walmart I remembered how broken my own soul was that I would even have those thoughts. Years later, my life was significantly changed for the better by two ladies who wore dresses to their knees and never considered less than that when attending church. What a lesson for me.

This walk down memory lane led me to think on what divides Christian women the worst. What causes us to rise up against each other. What causes us to tear each other down.

It is comparison. 

We compare ourselves to other women in connection to, well, everything. And the result of comparing is always a couple of things; jealousy and envy or arrogance and pride. If we compare and find ourselves wanting then we experience horrible jealousy. If we compare and find ourselves better, we are eaten up in arrogance and pride. And the result of both of those is division.

It makes me sad. 

Christian women need one another desperately. We are aliens in a foreign land. We are not designed for the place we are living in. We are set apart. Weird. Out of place. If ever anybody needed anybody, it is other aliens. We need each other to get through this alien world until we reach home. But we are so busy comparing, cutting, finding fault.  We walk alone often because either the other women are not in our caliber OR the other women are so much better than us (in our mind) that our envy keeps us from loving or being loved by them.

Stop it.
Just stop it. 

I don’t know how biblical sounding that counsel is but God gave the same counsel when He wrote proverbs. If you are doing something foolish – stop it! He told the woman being stoned: who condemns you? Neither do I: now go and sin no more.

So just stop it. 

Listen, this thing we do; this comparing…
It is not humble.
It is not right.
It is not good.
It is evil.
Evil.

It is a tool of Satan to kill, steal, and destroy. I have seen it destroy friendships between sisters who are grown up in Jesus. I have seen it destroy the friendship between sisters who truly love others. It is wicked. If you are practicing it: just stop it.

Beg God to help you. Talk to other women who are not struggling in this. Talk to your pastor.

This sin is insidious. It will keep you isolated and alone and afraid for your whole life. 

Hiding behind fake smiles. And fake great marriage stories. And fake great kid stories. And fakehomemaking stories. Get it? Comparing ourselves leads to fake because we can never tell the lady who seems to be perfect what is hurting us. That we are not all together. That we are wearing capris to church but all broken at home. Our sorrows never get shared enough to find out the lady in the dress hurts too. She hurts just like you. Oh, this breaks my heart. I beg God to break this ugly sin from the church who loves Jesus. Break it! 

Some common areas of comparison that should bind us together but tears us apart:

  • Schooling. Oh, a big one. Homeschool. Public school. Private school. Charter schools. Online school. The absolute craziness over these camps makes my heart sick.
  • Breastfeed or bottle-feed. New mommas are struggling to sleep; struggling to get through colic; struggling to learn how to cope. And we draw up sides on how we feed our kids instead of crying together over exhaustion, fear and being crazy busy.
  • C section or natural birth. One of the most beautiful experiences of womanhood to be shared and we draw camps over it. We insist it matters. It does not. Stop it.
  • Skirts or pants. Truly. Who cares. Who cares!
  • Gifts & Talents. Instead of celebrating our different gifts and thanking God he blessed us by gifting a sister who can help us in our weakness, we secretly find ways to tear down those gifted differently than us so we feel better about our own. So then we never get to be helped by those with different gifts. We are too busy being jealous while hiding behind our smiles.
  • Married or unmarried. Well, of course married women are better. God loves them more. (Camp #1). Well, unmarried are more holy because Paul said, “Hey, wish you could be me!” (Camp #2) So never the two shall meet. So incredibly sad.
  • Mommas or not.  Women who want babies are so sad and broken that often they compare the way they would mother with the way Christian sisters do mother. They lose out on the chance to support sisters who need them. Who desperately need them. Women who are mommas only do playdates with other mommas. It never crosses their minds to share their beautiful family with the lady with no kids.

Unbelievable division that God never intended. 

Stories of women who hated other women abound in the Bible but the one that breaks my heart the most is Rebecca and Leah. Years of comparison. Years of envy. Years of jealously. What did it lead to? Generations of jealously. Envy. Hatred. Thousands of years. Read the story. God did not intend this sweet sisters.

Stop it.
Just stop it. 

Beg God to help you see women as the gifted amazing people he made them. Stop being afraid you cannot measure up. Stop posturing because you are infinitely better. Just love one another. We have so much to offer one another.

Stop comparing.
Start loving.
The two are not coexistent. 

Here is the verse that blows comparison up and stops it on its tracks: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

My motive should never be sizing up the competition to be better or to be good as. My motive should always be the glory of God alone. Now apply that to the list above. What does that look like in your life?  Your circumstances??

Do what brings glory to God. Only that. 

God bless our sweet sisters to seek Gods glory and be FREE to love one another without this yoke of comparison.

PASTOR’S NOTE: We are blessed to learn from Lori’s godly wisdom.  As Christians we all need to learn to discuss the various issues she mentions above without allowing our hearts to become judgmental or to fall into the comparison trap.  May the Lord give us grace to know how to agreeably disagree when the gospel and the primary truths of God’s character are not at stake.  Far too often in our culture, Christians either choose churches or leave churches over tertiary matters that fall more under Christian freedom or mere preferences.  We need to seek God’s grace to unite around those first-tier doctrines that matter most!

 

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Back to School: Parents Beware!

Christians often ask the wrong questions.

Instead of asking, “Why doesn’t God save everyone?” we should ask, “Why does God save anyone?”

Another example, sometimes a Christian parent will ask me my opinion on home schooling or private school or public school.  I have made my thoughts on those subjects crystal clear for many years, from the pulpit, in the counseling rooms, and on this blog!  But I suggest to such a parent that he or she is really asking the wrong question.

Rather than try and pro/con the whole educational options debate, which treats the hearts and souls of our children somewhat like they matter no more to us than if we were buying a new car, we should learn to ask good questions.  Biblical questions.

The two big questions every Christian parent should ask in this matter are:

  1. If all I had was my Bible, how would I raise / educate / train my child? 
  2. Who do I want to raise my child? 

These two questions strike at the real jugular of the issue.  In the biblical worldview, to educate a child is to raise a child is to teach a child is to train a child is to discipline a child.  These heart-and-mind-shaping activities simply cannot be compartmentalized in God’s way of thinking.  What we now have been programmed to call “education” is what the Lord Almighty calls “Disciple Making.”

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

“Father [parents] do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deut 6:7).

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments . . . my son be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding” (Prov 3:1; 5:1).

One cannot help but grasp the comprehensive nature of child-rearing when one seeks to get God’s view of it.  While I have a soft heart for those in the church who simply cannot home school, such as single moms, and I do not in any way mean to disparage Christian teachers seeking to invest in kids in public schools, as a Pastor committed to the absolute sufficiency of Scripture I must warn every parent to ask these probing questions.  If you are only spending a few hours a day, 5 days a week, with your child, then who is really raising your child?  And if all you had were your Bible, how would you parent?

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be thoroughly [sufficiently] equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

It is hard to imagine a better “good work” than raising, teaching, training, discipling our children.

But for those of you who simply cannot resist the pro/con method, consider the results of the Gen2 survey sponsored by Generations Ministry.  The survey was conducted 2013-2015 of 10,000 Millenials who grew up in Christian homes during the 1990s and early 2000s.  Here are a few results:

  • A private Christian school student is 270% more likely to believe in evolution, and the public school student is 330% more likely to believe in evolution, than a home school student.
  • A public school student is 330% more likely to be sexually abused (self-reported) than a home school student.
  • The active role of the father in a child’s sexual purity is pivotal.
  • Children who abandoned the faith later in life cited their parents’ hypocrisy most often as the prime factor.  In other words, if we parents say the Bible is enough, then we had better seek grace to live that out in every decision, and to spend many hours with our children so they can see what it means to “walk in a manner worthy of your calling” (Eph 4:1).  Our children are watching!

Of course, there are no perfect homes.  We are all broken in some ways.  And there are exceptions to every generality.  But I am persuaded the most important questions to ask in these matters are the two I gave above.  If you need to sink your teeth more deeply into this topic, dear Dad and Mom, go get a copy of Disciple Like Jesus for Parents by Alan Melton and Paul Dean.  Really.  Read it.  And may God’s Spirit grant us all courage to be disciples who make disciples . . . beginning at home.

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Public Schools = Pastor’s Nuisance

State run public education has been on my “do not approve” list for the last 15 years or so.  While I love the public school teachers in our evangelical churches, and pray for them as they are hand-cuffed by godless curricula and administrations, I stand by my general disapproval of the system itself.

The problems in the K-12 (not to mention the university system) system are really too numerous to even tackle now for Bible-believing pastors.  Planned Parenthood runs the “sex education.”  GLSEN gets a nod to infiltrate every level of the system, meaning our 1st graders are being routinely exposed to the agenda of those who promote sexual sins and self-rule as normal and acceptable.  Public libraries across the country now sponsor “Drag Queen Story Hour.”  High school boys, in some schools, can now shower with girls.  And girls can play on boys sports teams.  And boys who consider themselves girls can compete against actual girls.  And science texts lie and present as facts preposterous theories that have not given any good, hard evidence in 150 years (i.e., Darwinian Evolution).  The system truly appears un-redeemable, in my opinion.  For many parents like me, the only viable solution is to home-school or if you can afford it, to use private Christian schools.

Add to the madness now that a Social Studies textbook being used in Sullivan County Tennessee claims Allah is the same God as the Christian God.  For more information, see:

Controversy Erupts in Tennessee Over Textbook That Claims Allah is the Same as the God of the Bible

Typically, if one public school is using a textbook, many hundreds more are too.  This is why I tell Christian parents whose children are in public schools that they really should take the time to read each textbook their child is assigned.  There is no other way to help the child learn to counter the lies.  While the Sullivan County school is defending the textbook by saying they are not allowed to promote one religion over another, that really skirts the whole matter, doesn’t it?

A proper education deals in facts.  And no self-respecting Muslim would agree that Allah is the same God as the God of Christianity.  And no Bible-believing Christian would assent to that claim either.  Why not just teach the facts of each religion?  Students with any modicum of reasoning ability will then discern that all religious claims simply cannot be true.  Relativism does not work.  Islam cannot be true if the Bible is accurate and true.  I wonder if the social studies text also says the millions of Hindu gods are also the same as Allah or the Christian God?

You see, relativism never works.  Ever.  It’s central claim, that there is no such thing as absolute truth, is self-referentially absurd.  To debunk it, one only needs ask, “Is it absolutely true, then, that there is no such thing as absolute truth?”

I hope some Christians show up to Sullivan County Board of Education meetings and ask:

  • Is Allah the God who chose Isaac, not Ishmael?
  • Is Allah the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Is Allah the God who saves sinners by pouring out His wrath on His Son on the cross, granting Jesus’ righteousness to all who cry out to Him for mercy as Lord, King, and Savior?
  • Is Allah the God who has committed all judgment to His Son, Jesus?
  • Is Allah the God whose glory may only be seen and enjoyed in the face of Jesus Christ?

These questions ought to be sufficient to convince them to throw that textbook in the trash where it belongs.  I pray the Christians in Sullivan County will be found faithful, loving, kind and true to the gospel.  Only that kind of witness has God’s stamp of approval.  And who knows?  Such a witness may just be the means God uses to save a Muslim, or a confused student, or an irate parent.  To the glory of Christ alone!

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