The Ministry Isn’t Rocket Science…but
Thoughts to drive us to Jesus side…..
Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. 2 Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. 3 I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Psalm 69:1-3 (NLT2)
Almost anything associated with the ministry may be learned with an average amount of intelligent application. It is not hard to preach or manage church affairs or pay a social call; weddings and funerals may be conducted smoothly with a little help from Emily Post and the Minister’s Manual. Sermon making can be learned as easily as shoemaking—introduction, conclusion and all. And so with the whole work of the ministry as it is carried on in the average church today.
But prayer—that is another matter. There Mrs. Post is helpless and the Minister’s Manual can offer no assistance. There the lonely man of God must wrestle it out alone, sometimes in fastings and tears and weariness untold. There every man must be an original, for true prayer cannot be imitated nor can it be learned from someone else.
There is an analogy between growing up spiritually and the growing up that takes place in the normal course of human life. In approaching adolescence and adulthood, everyone seems to have to pass through a crisis.… God has great sympathy for those who are going through this crisis in their spiritual life. They do not know what is happening to them and tend to concentrate on the disintegration of what they love, rather than on the real spiritual growth of which they are becoming capable.… If we look on the bright side and are firmly convinced that it is normal to have to forge new relationships, our crisis of faith will appear as a great invitation to go deeper into the heart of Christ. The very transition makes it impossible for the former people we counted on to help us. Part of growing up is to become independent—not of everybody, but of those on whom we are too dependent—so that we may depend completely on the Holy Spirit. That is what spiritual maturity is.
Tozer is correct…. the actual day-to-day tasks of being a pastor or one of those who help him are not that difficult. They don’t take the mind of a rocket scientist or incredible skills in management and business. That’s why people are getting “self-ordained” or getting one-day licenses to do weddings or just doing memorials on their own.
But a real pastor, a real elder, a real Sunday School teacher, or worship leader is not just a combination o talent and academic preparation. They have to be someone who wrestles with themselves and God – much as Jacob did. As each man’s gifts are different, so are the battles. The temptations, the anxieties, and the circumstances that they dwell in are different, making each battle unique – and therefore, the healing from battle damage is never the same.
Those battles are irreplaceable in one’s growth as a believer. Keating’s comparison to the challenges of the transition from childhood to adulthood is perfect. During that time, physically, mentally, spiritually, everything is challenged. Some demean it, having forgotten those long nights and empty feelings. As we enter Christ, everything changes, as idols and those who could become idols are removed. And while we have their words and often their examples, we are bereft of the comfort and the fact that someone is listening.
And that makes the brokenness echo throughout our hearts and minds, and yes, our souls. As we come on the other side of it, what disintegrated is replaced (much as Job’s family and fortune were!) Life becomes different, and we look at it with eyes that have grown weary as spiritual maturity is forced upon us. Every thing is stripped away, and we find everything is found as the Holy Spirit grants us the faith we need.
The place where the Psalmist was, is more important for a pastor or any other servant leader or believer in the church to experience. It is out of such times we God’s hand clearly, and the brokenness gives way to grace.
Ministry isn’t rocket science – it is more complicated. Still, as we see the breakthroughs and see the miracles, it is more rewarding…for it is walking with God… each step.
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
The Impossibly, Possible Prayer…
Thoughts for this Day, to draw us closer to Jesus… and cause us to adore Him!
Please do me a favor, and read each of the following quotes carefully, and the one in blue twice… prior to reading my words
19 A scribe approached him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 “Lord,” another of his disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:19–22 (CSB)
28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30 (CSB)
Now I am no longer my own, I am Thine; O God of my heart, dispose of me as Thou pleasest. In order to please Thee, I accept of all the tribulations Thou mayest choose to send me—sickness, sorrow, troubles, ignominies, poverty, persecution, desolation—I accept all to please Thee: in like manner I accept of the death Thou hast decreed for me, with all the anguish and crosses which may accompany it: it is enough if Thou grantest me the grace to love Thee exceedingly.
To be filled with the Spirit of God is to have come through feelings, disturbance, anxiety, disappointment and emptiness. When you reach that place of despair, when you have gone to the last person and you have written the last editor, when you have followed the last evangelist around and hunted up the last fellow to counsel with you—when no man can help you anymore and you are in a state of inward despair—that is when you will recognize that you are near the place where God can finally do what He wants to do for you. When there comes that despair with self, that emptying out of you and that inner loneliness, you are getting close.
It is part of my belief that God wants to get us to a place where we would still be happy if we had only Him! We don’t need God and something else. God does give us Himself and lets us have other things, too, but there is that inner loneliness until we reach the place where it is only God that we desire.
“There is only one article and one rule of theology, and this is true faith or trust in Christ. Whoever doesn’t hold this article and this rule is no theologian. All other articles flow into and out of this one; without it the others are meaningless. The devil has tried from the very beginning to deride this article and to put his own wisdom in its place. However, this article has a good savor for all who are afflicted, downcast, troubled, and tempted, and these are the ones who understand the gospel.”
I asked you to read the words in blue twice, but I want to start with those in purple…
I passionately love and hate those words de Ligouri wrote.
I want to be able to pray them, I desperately want to say, “these are my words! Hear them Lord!” I’ve been through enough in life to know the truth in them – this is where I should be, so desirous of God’s love, so adoring Him that I do not recognize the hardships that exist, and so eager to be with Him that I can cast temptation, and the sins of this day aside.
Yet I hate them because I cannot do that easily. The weights, the pains, the heartaches, the temptations, and yes – the sins all overwhelm me and convict me that such a prayer would simply be hypocritical, that it would be a lie. So that prayer angers me because I feel I cannot pray it. I understand the scribes shock and reluctance to leave it all behind to follow Jesus.
Luther’s words add to the dissonance, the relationship with Jesus, where I believe and trust and depend on Him is so critical, that nothing else matters. Again, I know this, but I struggle to live in this truth, and the brokenness it
causes I can’t explain without tears, without heartache.
If you are a Christian, and have been for any time, this tension should sound familiar. (See Romans 7 to now we aren’t alone!)
But the brokenness is a blessing, for it drives us to the point where we understand the gospel! We are those Luther identifies as being able to savor our dependence on Christ. We are the afflicted, downcast, troubled and tempted.
And therefore, there is nothing, nothing but Jesus left.
This is where Tozer’s words in blue, the one’s I asked you to read twice, come into play. With nothing else left, in the midst of our lonely brokenness, we find the Spirit of God filling our lives, comforting us. There are times when God uses someone to remind us of God’s presence, but in that despair, God helps us realize that our only need… is Him.
And that is where the prayer becomes possible. When we realize that God is everything for us, and that deep, intimate relationship becomes everything, and anything we endure is nothing.
For there, is Jesus.
The Friend who takes all our burdens, all our brokenness, all our cares, all the things we think separate us from Him… and He takes that load, and blesses our souls with peace and rest.
Heavenly Father, help us to learn to pray that Your Kingdom come, and Your Will be done…and mean it. Help us to see Your love, revealed in Christ’s love for us, and help us set all else aside…and rejoice as we adore You! Amen!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 357.
A. W. Tozer, The Counselor: Straight Talk about the Holy Spirit from a 20th Century Prophet (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1993), 77–78.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 157.
A New Chapter…and a Restored Hope!
Devotional Thought of the New Year
5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone— my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. Psalm 32:5 (MSG)
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter.
“Tell the backslider,” says the Lord, “I am married unto him.” Was there ever a tenderer message?
My beloved Jesus, I am not yet perfect; but Thou canst make me perfect. I am not dear to Thee, and it is my own fault, because I have been ungrateful and unfaithful; but Thou canst make me become so, by inebriating me this morning with Thy love.
Gracious and Exalted Savior, we are not worthy to receive the mercy and goodness which Thou dost give us, and on account of our sins are far too unclean and weak rightly to receive this salutary gift. Sanctify us therefore in body and soul by Thy Holy Spirit; prepare us and adorn us with grace to draw near Thy holy Table.
What a way to start a year… with such refreshing prayers of de Ligouri and Loehe, a Catholic Mystic and a Lutheran Pastor. Add in Tozer quoting Brother Lawrence, a protestant quoting Roman Catholic lay monk, and the message is reinforced again. And yet, that is the only way to beging a year….
To realize our imperfection, and our hope!
Such is the way of Christ, who knew our sin, and still died for it. He knew our struggling with it, and sends the Holy Spirit.
It is no wonder deLigouri talks about God causing us to be inebriated to be drunk on the love He pours into us. To be dressed in the very grace of God, to be clothed with jesus.
This has been the way… it has been planned since the beginning, and sinners have become holy by experiencing the giddiness, the feeing lightheaded, that happens as the burdens of guilt, shame and resentment are lifted off of you.
This is how we need to start the new year. This is what you need to experience throughout 2021… It is what I need more than anything as well….forgiveness, pressures and burdens lifted….
God with us…
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 89.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 31–32.