The Life of a Preacher

prayer

In the last month I have had the blessing of hosting 3 different preachers in my home. The first was a preacher who had been laboring in South Africa for the last three years and is back in the states for the first time. The second is someone who has preached the gospel for several more years than myself (he was in Iowa for almost as long as I have been preaching). The third has not actually started preaching. He was in the middle of a move and needed a place to sleep. It was interesting to me to listen to the stories that we have told about various hardships we have faced while preaching the gospel. In same ways, I was able to do something that I haven’t done in a really long time. I was able to be open and honest with someone about what was going on in my life.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love the saints here. I appreciate all that they have done for me and my family. But the life of the preacher comes with “strings” attached that the average Christians simply is unaware of.

Did you know that your preacher feels like he lives in a fishbowl? Yes, Paul taught Timothy to be an example unto the believers (I Tim. 4:12). However, the pressure he feels as he lives in that fishbowl is extremely difficult. Often times preachers are not just feeling the pressure to be an example, but he feels like is to be THE example. He is to be so perfect that the members of the local church do not find any weaknesses in him at all. He can’t appear to struggle with temptation, he can’t appear to actually sin, he can’t appear to have any doubts whatsoever. And it is not just he that lives in the fishbowl. If he is married, his wife lives in that same way. If he has kids, they too must live in that fishbowl. The preacher often carries with them the pressure of having not just a perfect life, but a perfect wife, perfect kids, a perfect marriage and so on. The wife must perfectly compliment the husband. The children must be perfect in their obedience to their parents. The preacher often feels that any failure on this means that he is unsuited for preaching.

This leads many preachers to feel isolated from those whom he seeks to serve. How many times have you called up the preacher asking for advice, asking for help, asking for prayers? How many times have you opened your heart to your preacher because you feel that you are at your wits end? You call him because you trust him. You turn to him because you feel that he can understand. You look to him because you know that he won’t judge you for feeling this way. But, who can the preacher turn to when he needs help? If he is having marriage difficulties the preacher is often afraid to confide in another because he is worried that this seeking of advice might detrimentally impact his position of influences with a congregation. If the preacher is tempted by sin, who can he turn to for spiritual strength in the local congregation? Often times the answer is no one. Sure, he might have a buddy from college, he might have a preacher mentor he can call once in a while, but those friendships are not the same as friendship that is developed through intimate conversations over the years (something that most non-preachers will develop). But, not preachers. They are often too afraid of the consequences of pouring their heart out and just leaving themselves bear before anyone in the local church.

What can you do to help your preacher? I wish I could you an easy answer. Yes, every preacher wants to hear those encouraging words of good job. Every preacher wants to hear that they are appreciated. I am personally comforted when a person mentions me in their public prayers. However, that is not the same as saying, I am here for you. I am not here to judge you. If you sin, I won’t be casting any stones. If you aren’t perfect, that is okay, I’m not either. Or, how can I help you? And even more important than that, to actually mean those things. In the end, you have to ask yourself, what type of environment are you providing for the preacher and his family? One that cultivates his spiritual growth or one that cultivates his spiritual demise by trying to live up to a standard that only Christ can live?

Am I the Lord’s Servant?

serve

This morning my wife and I got a scary phone call from a dear friend and sister in Christ. She told us that she was admitted to the hospital late last night. She couldn’t breathe, her oxygen levels had bottomed out, and according to the ER nurse that admitted her, had she waited until the morning to come in, she wouldn’t be with us today. Naturally, I rushed down to the hospital where she was admitted and again was immediately amazed by this wonderful woman.

Her thoughts were not really on her current predicament. She did share with me what was going on. She spent about 5-10 minutes of my stay talking about what the doctors have told her. The remainder of the time was spent talking about my wife’s mother, my wife’s psyche, and other members of the church who were in need of prayers. She even spent some time talking about those whom she used to serve who are no longer with her (he mother, her husband, sister-in-law, etc). When the physical therapist came in, they were in for quite a shock. I could see the genuine surprise in the therapists eyes as this sister in Christ told her that she has no one that comes in and takes care of her. She provides her own meals, drives where she needs to drive, does her own laundry, cleans her own house, etc. I’ve known this sister in Christ for 5 years (she is very much a grandmother to my own children). I was not shocked to hear her basically tell the therapist she hasn’t needed someone to serve her. Serving is what she does. Serving is what she has always done. She has made more sacrifices in her life for the sake of others than most of could only imagine.

As I sat there listening to her talk I began to ask myself what have I done to follow in her footsteps? While my own mom and dad are not laid up and in need of care, I don’t even call them on a daily basis. Let alone serve them daily. Even among those whom I do live, I don’t serve like that. I don’t serve until I am nearly sick. In fact, through the years, as a result of her service people have come to know the Lord. I don’t really think I can say the same.

This has led me to feel rather guilty. How can I call myself the Lord’s servant, how can any of us call ourselves the Lord’s servant when we aren’t willing to serve one another? And there are others who need served. All we have to do is open our eyes and we will see them. The question is, are you willing to open your heart and be there in their hour of need?

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life

(Matt. 25:31-46, NASB).”

Life is a Journey

cruise ship

I love traveling.  There is something about being somewhere you have never been before that just captivates my heart.  One of the items on my bucket list is to visit all 50 states.  Of course doing this today is not nearly as difficult as it was 100 years ago (yes I know that not all the states were ratified 100 years ago).  My point is that travel my cars and trains anmd more importantly planes has made traveling great distances very easy.  100 years ago, you got to Hawaii by boat.  You got to Alaska by boat too.  (Of course this is a really popular cruise ride today).  But, back then it wasn’t about a vacation it was usually about moving and embarking upon a new chapter in one’s life.  We can still get glimpse’s of this type of life when we watch old movies as people gather by the those giants ships waving good bye to their love ones.  (Often to never see them again).

As the ship set out to sea, I was once told by Ralph Walker that there were three types of people on a ship.  There are those that sit at the front of the cruise ship anxiously waiting for what is coming ahead.  These are are not overly concerned with what they left behind for they were usually leaving something they desperately needed to get away from.  (no job, no home, no hope, no family, etc).  What lied ahead was hope.  They kept watching early anticipating what could be.  There were those that looked at what was around them.  These usually enjoy the journey itself.  After all life on a boat is unlike any other type of life.  When I watch those old films of people crossing the Atlantic on a giant ocean liner I am amazed at what could be done on these ships.  It was like watching a traveling city floating on the ocean.  I can see how just enjoying the rise was possible.  Finally, he told me there was there were those at the back of the boat.  They were going to deeply miss what they were leaving behind.  They took this journey because they knew it was for the bets, but they are having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that those people, that city, etc won’t be a part of their lives anymore.

When brother Walker told me of this it wasn’t to tell me about traveling by sea.  For all three types of people exist in this journey we call life.  Some of us look back desperately missing those that are no longer with us.  Some of us are enjoying life for what it is.  And the rest of us are looking forward to what lies ahead.  He told me this as I struggled with depression.  I didn’t long for what lied behind, I wasn’t enjoying life as it was.  This is when he told me that I needed to remember what part of the boat I was on.  I was sitting in the front and there was nothing wrong with that.  I was longing for what lied ahead .  He then told me to find joy in knowing that what lied ahead was indeed better than all that I have left behind.  He was right.  I had a wife in my future, 4 wonderful children, numerous brother and sisters in Christ that love me.  And most importantly, as I sit at the front of my ship, I see heaven glistening on the horizon.

I don’t know what part of the ship you like to sit, but find joy where ever you are.

Living in the House of Mourning

funeral

This year has without a doubt been a very difficult year. It began with my wife losing the baby she was carrying. (I know that many have suffered miscarriages). I don’t think I could have been more emotionally invested in a pregnancy than I was with this one. Don’t get me wrong I was excited to learn that we were having a baby each time. But I always had a sense of nervousness. Not this last time. This last time I wanted another child in our home more than I wanted anything else in this world. So, when we lost the baby I was completely devastated. A few months later, my Aunt Shirley passed away. I spent one post on what she meant to me. She was the first person to put in my heart that I needed to put on Christ in baptism. She was a remarkable woman that spent her life preparing for the day that she would depart from this world. This last week, as I mentioned in my blog, my wife went done to her mother and father’s home and I stayed behind to watch the kids so that she could be there with her mom without distractions. This past came in late because I went down there Easter Sunday to be with her and bring her home. While I was down there I was reminded of how brief this life really is… yet again.

My mother-in-law is not well. She looks weak. She feels weak. She talks weakly, and to be honest it terrifies me. She is in her mid-50s and I know 80 year olds that are able to get around better than she. She has a rare disease that is slowly taking her away from us. I had moments of joy while there. I got to watch her play Aggravation with the kids. (I hope a memory that my children will always have, just as I have memories of playing games with my grandmother). But, I was somber, scared, and reflective most of the time there.

Solomon once wrote, “It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart (Ecc. 7:2).” That sounds so odd to write. We don’t like living in the house of morning. We avoid death on every level. The last place I want to be is in a room where someone is dying. We feel uncomfortable. So much so, that we will go somewhere else to laugh and dwell upon anything but the death we are facing. I have become convinced that the reason we don’t like living in that house is not just because it reminds us of our own mortality, but because it reminds us that we are unprepared for such an event in our own lives. Let us be honest with ourselves. How many of us have written up a will? How many of us have made preparations for our children in the event that both you and your spouse die? Who will take care of your kids? How many of us have written a living will to help our loved ones with those end of life decisions?

And even more importantly, how many of us have made preparations for what happens after we die? No, I am not talking about funeral arrangements and where you are going to be buried (although those are good things to be planning for). “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Heb. 9:27).” Are you ready for judgment? Are you living a life that takes advantage of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ or are you living a life that God would be well pleased with? Yes, I think the biggest reason we don’t like living in the house of mourning is because we know deep down, we aren’t ready.