“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pastor?

For Pastor Appreciation Month, my wife and I were given a gift certificate for a local B&B. I will soon take her to the B&B and we will enjoy our twentieth wedding anniversary. Thank you to my wonderful congregation!

That is not why I am posting today, but wanted to set the stage a bit. When I receive recognition during Pastor Appreciation Month, I truly wonder, did/do I really deserve recognition? I look into the faces of my congregation and ask myself,

a) "Have I done EVERYTHING I could do to ensure that my teaching is solid?"

b) "Have I paid proper attention to those hurting, or in need of counsel?"

c) "Have I recognized those unsung workers, who week in and week out, are there, teaching Sunday School, and giving of their time and finances?"

And I find often that the honest answer is less than stellar. I wish I had more time to devote to study (don't we all), and I wish that I was able to spend more time visiting, but truth is, I have a limited number of cycles, and the laws of physics works against me.

In Jewish circles, during the month of Elul (which this year took place around Pastor Appreciation Month), a time is spent in reviewing the past year, and making things right with others. Now there are many things in the concept of Elul which I disagree with, however one of the things that I appreciate about Elul (also called Teshuvah) is that it forces me to look over the past year and see how I have done.

Truth be told, I owe my congregation many apologies for sermons that should not have been preached, or preached with more clarity. I am not sure who Alistair Begg was quoting, but I have heard him say, "We should keep our old sermons to weep over". I heartily agree and have done so on many occasions.

When a pastor preaches a bad/poor sermon and it is recorded for posterity and broadcast on the radio, I try to be understanding; I shudder to think what my life would be like if all of my sermons were broadcast on the radio! Now, there are always exceptions, where a sermon is simply inexcusable, badly researched, or NOT the gospel. However, there are many sermons in which a faux pas is seized upon and blown into a major debate/critique, judging a pastor by one slip that he made.

I have heard sermons by men that I respect greatly, such as John MacArthur and Mark Dever, where I thought that they lacked a bit of grace, or maybe the sermon contained an agenda which I felt was not fully exegeted out of the Scripture. I do not fault these men for that, they are, after all, simply men. They have fed their flocks faithfully for many, many years, and an occasional sermon that misses a bit is going to happen (And besides, that is my opinion, after all).

Sorry, went off on a tangent for a minute -- Back to our discussion: Yes, we all preach sermons that we would like to take back.

Also, I sometimes struggle with counseling; our church is a bit unique in that we are truly an outreach church, working with people who have had some very tough lives, some RIGHT off the street. Sometimes the questions these folks ask fall outside of the counseling techniques and guidance that I learned. I always pray before, during and after counseling sessions, desiring for the Word of the Lord to reign supreme in the session. I must admit that I sometimes miss on this. As emotions raise and discussions get more heated, or emotional (on the side of the counselee, usually), I find myself, at times, desiring to comfort when confronting is what is called for, or vice-versa.

And how do you thank people who are so giving of their time? We are a completely volunteer church, not having any paid staff, and I am always amazed at the work that the people in this congregation will do for ministries. We hold a Passover Seder every year to explain and illustrate the Messiah in the Feast, and the people in the church work for weeks preparing; we will have more people attend the Seder than we have in the church (usually by about double!)

These are examples of what I think about as they recognize me during Pastor Appreciation Month. I know that the Scriptures say that elders are worthy of double honor, but Paul puts a qualifier in the passage that says, "Let elders who RULE WELL be considered worthy of double honor..." And I always wonder: Am I ruling well?

While many, many pastors know, and quote, the 1st Timothy Scripture above, we need to go back and look over what qualifies as 'ruling well'.

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Jeremiah 23:1, 2 - "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: "You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD..."

Am I attending to my flock?

Ezekiel 34 - The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. "Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. "For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. "As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? "Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. "I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD."

Have I fed the flock with proper food? (Thanks be to God that we have a perfect Shepherd, and are simply the under-shepherds!)

2nd Timothy 2:15 - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Have I done my homework? Am I rightly handing the Word of God?

James 3:1 - Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.


Let ME keep that in mind as I labor for the Lord this year!

I pray that this year I will be a more effective, and learned pastor than I was last year! I pray that my prayer life will improve and my handling of the Word will align with the proper handling Paul stresses to Timothy.

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