My thinking was theologically incorrect, and my words were borderline heresy.
I have a Christian college degree after five years of intensive Biblical study. I have read through the Scriptures from cover to cover repeatedly. There is no lack of effort on my part to know God better.
Then I read a book that pointed out an area where I was mistaken. I had misunderstood a couple of key passages and drawn some wrong conclusions. My theology was flawed.
I have been studying the Bible for my entire adult life, and I was wrong. I am willing to admit that and grow from it.
There is just so much for us to learn; even pastors need to understand God and his word more completely. So do you.
God is teaching you.
God is growing you.
God is also using you.
Right where you are at this moment. God is doing something in, to, and through you. Never forget that.
Someone needs to be honest with you.
The problems you have with your parents might not be their issue.
The difficult relationship between you and your sibling is possibly not their problem.
The struggles in your marriage may not be your spouse’s fault.
The complicated relationships you find at work might not be what your coworkers do.
Perhaps, the problem is you.
That is okay. You can fix a problem that is yours. Admitting problems opens the door for us to change. No one is trying to make you feel like a failure or fill you with guilt. But somedays, you need to be honest about your struggles and seek to improve.
There is no shame in admitting your difficulties; only in staying that way.
Most vacation photos are fake.
I don’t mean they are photoshopped. I mean, the people are told to stand together, and then everyone is to force a smile for the camera. It doesn’t matter how hot it is or how tired you are at the time; everyone needs to smile. Sometimes people will get angry at one another while taking the picture.
Why here? Why now? Why did we have to stop enjoying the moment to take this picture? I was smiling, and now I am frustrated that we had to take a picture.
Then, everyone smiles and says “cheese,” hoping we get a good picture in one take.
We do this because we want to remember the happiness we experienced on this vacation. We don’t want to look back and remember anger and frustration. The smile in the photo will endure, and everyone will know how much we loved our time visiting wherever.
Life is not just about what we experience but also how we remember it. Sometimes you have to manufacture a smile to make a memory better.
The same is true when you are dealing with people. A smile will always make the experience better and more memorable, even when manufactured.
There is something about your life that someone else dreams of possessing.
This could be the salary at your job, the house where you live, the spouse with which you spend your life, possibly your toys, and even the friends in your life. There is an endless list of things people could and do covet about your life that you simply take for granted.
The biggest key to a happy life is not obtaining more. Instead, it is appreciating the things you already have.
I know God has blessed you in some way that you have overlooked. Joy is a state of mind, not a destination where we hope to one day arrive.
The greatest thing most Pastors desire is the support of their congregation.
We do not feel like we work for the Church. We work for God. The work is an extension of our soul, and we seek to please our creator.
Along the way, we would love to have the support of the people we lead and serve beside.
Support comes in all kinds of ways. It can be a kind word about the sermon. All forms of encouragement are appreciated. The way people treat my spouse and my children are a blessing that most people do not realize is critical. Attendance on Sunday morning and other programs helps me see that my work is not pointless. ALL kind actions are little pieces of support that make ministry a joy.
A camp leader once told me that he could not figure out why pastors leave the Church they are leading. But when he flipped the question over, he quickly discovered why pastors stay; they are offered love and support.
This post is not a plea for people to run up to me on Sunday and say something supportive as a desperate attempt to keep me happy. I am out of town on vacation and want to share something on my heart while I am away.
I am thankful that God allows me to remain a preacher, but I am extra grateful for the people who support me on this journey.
That is precisely what they are: Excuses. They are my petty attempts to rid myself of blame while justifying my actions.
But please don’t poke holes in them. They keep me safe from expectations.
They are flimsy and flawed, but I need them to feel comfortable. They keep me from confronting my prejudices and pride.
I know you see the holes in my logic, but they make me keep up a look of confidence.
There are times I will admit to them, but that doesn’t mean I will change anything.
They hurt me, keep me from growing as a person and a believer, and limit my relationships. But I think I will keep them. They are MY excuses, and to make changes might upset the status quo. And I, like many of you, are completely fine with that.
Along the highway, I have seen giant billboards advertising Jesus, faith, and local Churches. Almost every city has at least one full-color banner to help people become believers or connect to a faith community.
I have never used a billboard throughout my ministry, even though I have used every other type of advertising. So I cannot tell you if they are effective or a waste of money. However, I guess I noticed them, and I am sure I am not the only one.
A few years ago, I made a move as a pastor to stop using too much advertising. I still think it has a place, but for now, I would rather invest my resources into the walking billboards in our Church.
The people who comprise the community of faith are the best form of advertisement. Their life provides the opportunity for people to see and hear what genuine faith looks like. And honestly, if the people in the Church do not align with the message we share, no number of giant billboards by the road will make a difference.
Each life in the community of faith is a walking ad for the life of faith. Is the message you are presenting worth considering?
They were one of the most bitter and angry people I had ever met. They never had anything positive to say. A scowl accompanied their bad mood and poor attitude. Nobody could do anything correctly, or at least to their liking. Their words were often loud and filled with a seething anger that seemed to have no end.
While I do not know all the reasons for their anger, some things became more evident the longer I got to know them. Loss of a beloved family member at an early age, a strict father with an overly submissive mother, and a long list of painful experiences filled their past. Over time those feelings of hurt had turned into anger.
One mental health website states that people change their feelings of pain into anger because it feels better to be angry than to be in pain. I believe it also gives them a sense of control in a life that has been out of control. Finally, anger can distract us from feelings that bring us down.
I am sure there are other reasons, but my experience has been that most angry people are the product of pain. The hurt they once felt is now channeled into another emotion.
So, if you know someone like the person I mentioned, the problem may not be anger but hurt. These people need love and grace while being the most challenging person to offer it to. But sometimes, loving our enemies better results from understanding their background.
In your current situation, what is God trying to teach you? How is he trying to grow your faith? What lessons could you learn from what you are experiencing?
That difficult person might be the way you learn acceptance.
That particular job you hate might be teaching you patience or perseverance.
That feeling bringing you down might be an open invitation to do something more meaningful.
Instead of being upset at some of the events in your life, why not flip it over and ask yourself what God might be trying to teach you.
Teachings abound, but lessons are not always easily learned.