pastor (8)

‘pastor: n. a Christian minister; a shepherd

[ This post is #8 in a 22-part series. So as to best comprehend this series, read the introduction to the opening installment (posted Mon., Oct. 2). ]

Mario & Marilyn Pineda. Mario and I were students together back in preaching school days. Mario was preaching a bit with a local congregation and would soon wind up preaching “full time” there.* I was the true newb at the time; I was yet to even preach my first sermon when Mario and I first met.

Neither was I wearing a ring on my left hand yet, but I would be in the near future. While on the other hand, Mario was already a married man. He and his sweet bride, Marilyn, were quite a pair; a marvelous young Christian couple. They both strove to be Christ-like, each in their own ways, and together. Their care and consideration for each other was deep, easy, natural, and flourishing. Their great love for each other lit up the room whenever they walked in together.

And believe me: I, and others, took frequent and joyful note of that.

I don’t know if Mario or Marilyn ever knew it at the time, but they were often the topic of conversation among instructors and fellow students.

“Isn’t it great the way Marilyn did ____ for him?” “Did you see the way Mario took care of ____ for her?” “Just look at the way those two look at each other, will ya’?” “They just seem to want to give each other the best they have all the time!” Etc.

Such were common comments by all whenever Mario and Marilyn would depart a larger group’s company. They made us all determined to be better people and for those who, like myself, were unmarried at the time, well, they gave us a sterling example.

Mario and Marilyn, you two silently taught, pastored, shepherded, and instructed no small number of people in some of the ways of true thoughtfulness and tenderness, consideration and service, for our mates. It was easy to see Christ at the center of your marriage and the Spirit’s fruit in your lives then, and I know such must be all the more the case today.

Though I’m sure I’m exceedingly far from anything like a great husband, there is no doubt in my mind that I am a better partner for my mate due to the model Mario and Marilyn set before me over and over. I’m very thankful for that.

Father God, in the name of Jesus, I thank you for good men who love their wives, and by so doing, show that way clearly to others. Thank you for the shepherding your servants, Mario and Marilyn, silently gave me in this regard. Lavish your riches on them forever, I pray. Amen.

[ * To this day, Mario & Marilyn still minister with the Prairie Hill Church of Christ, located just south of Duncan, OK. ]

pastor (7)

pastor: n. a Christian minister; a shepherd

[ This post is #7 in a 22-part series. To understand this series best, first read the intro to the opening installment (posted Mon., Oct. 2). ]

Clayton Waller. In mentioning Clayton here, I’m perhaps going a bit afield from my original parameters for this series in that he was technically not, as we say, a “located preacher” when I got to know him. But, he had recently returned to the U.S. from years of missionary labors in what was then northeastern Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) – and, sadly, had been deeply hurt in the experience. And of all places, he and his sweet wife, Ina, had put down roots in my home church in Duncan, OK. When the Westside School of Bible & Preaching came to be, Clayton was tapped to become one of its instructors. It was in his class on Romans that I, now a student in that school, first met him.

And what a meeting it was! Highly skilled in the Bible’s original languages (especially Hebrew) and with a keen sense of “the big picture” of Scripture and how it all tied together, Clayton obviously viewed Christian faith through a very different set of lenses than any other preacher I had met before. While most seemed to typically saturate their messages with verses strung together from all over the New Testament (“going everywhere preaching the gospel” – LOL) and spoke a great deal of what we’re to be about doing today, Clayton invariably focused on a single passage, drilled deep, and focused primarily on how what God did and is doing affects us, and so, only then, what we do.

He didn’t “skin the denominations” when he spoke of churches or preachers outside of our specific heritage, either. In fact, he was content to quote whoever and give credit for whatever true good was done in the name of Christ by anyone. “Truth is truth no matter who says it and good is good no matter who does it.” Further, whenever he spoke he frequently used two words it seemed I only rarely heard from the lips of others (with the exceptions of Robert Gregg and Stanley Sayers): “grace” and “mercy.” And the Holy Spirit – oh, to Clayton, the Spirit was alive and well and working today, directly, and not only indirectly.

But, perhaps most startling of all to me was what I will call his “openness.” While some others clearly started with the expectation that we can know and explain even matters of very fine detail in seemingly all things faith-related and that such is our God-given responsibility and task – that is, that we can, and must, answer nearly all the faith-questions that can be conceived of and asked – Clayton quite deliberately swam against that stream. While others dwelt on ascertaining certainty, Clayton was clearly content to often live with mystery. He seemed to have a whole pallet of colors with which to paint, while most others appeared to have only black and white at hand. Consequently, he was a constant contrast to much of what I heard throughout the rest of the week, be it in school, sermons, Bible classes, or reading that had been assigned or suggested to me.

This was, to me, to say the least, curious and amazing, new and shocking. And, terrible to say, were ways that some others even actively urged me to reject and strongly resist.

How I wish I could tell you otherwise, but it is simply the truth: it would be several years before I began to embrace my Clayton’s perspective. At the time I knew him, I listened to him, but I rejected his perspective. (sigh) But, in time, that would change. And it was Clayton Waller who first challenged me to do so.

Father God, thank you for my brother, Clayton Waller. Thank you for sparing and carrying him and Ina through their ordeal in Rhodesia. Thank you for his ceaseless attempts to fit my eyes, and the eyes of many, with a new set of glasses. Thank you for your grace and mercy, for being patient with me, and for giving me time and temper to come to accept them. Thank you for Clayton’s shepherding of my mind with his staff and rod. Thank you for using Clayton to crack open my then rapidly closing mind and giving me an expanded – and still expanding – vision of you and your work. Thank you for teaching me, through him, that how I go about thinking is just as important as what I think. May it be Christ who is glorified in it all, and through whom you hear my prayer. Amen.

pastor (6)

pastor: n. a Christian minister; a shepherd
(This post is #6 in a 22-part series. To fully appreciate this series, first read the first installment’s introduction (posted Mon., Oct. 2).
 
Steve Bracken. At the start, I thought what Steve exemplified and shepherded me in most was sincere love and joy in the Lord. To me, his unquestionably genuine (key words!), quick, irrepressible smile was ample evidence enough of the presence and fruit of God’s Spirit at work within him.
 
However, that quickly evolved into a perception of Steve as an embodiment of the essence and true end of the gospel itself – peace – for if Steve was anything at all, it was peace and striving to be a peacemaker. Knowing Steve was like watching Romans 12.18 walking and talking; if tattoos had been “cool” back then, then that text is what should have been tattooed around his neck. Love, joy, and peace – ever wrapped in robes of gentleness and kindness – that’s what Steve was all about in big and obvious ways.
 
And yet, those things aren’t what Steve modeled for me, and pastored me in, best. To understand, you’d have to understand the time and place in which I came to know him. Suffice it to say that it was in many ways an appalling and galling time in our church family. Tumultuous times had bubbled to the surface, the atmosphere was ever-tense, and passive-aggressive ways were frequently in full-display, so much so that even I, a still infant Christian, could detect such with ease. Whispering, gossip, outrageous speculations, insinuations, and slights filled the air.
 
I will tell you what I have never told anyone until now: though those were some of the most joyful and vigorous times of growth for me in the Lord, they were also some of the most disheartening and depressing times for me ever in the life of a church family.
 
But, without ever directly mentioning the subject or the word (at least that I can recall), it was Steve Bracken who ministered one extremely strong and vital word to me through it all and in every moment.
 
Courage.
 
Courage under fire. Courage while caught in a crossfire. Courage when reputed pillars of faith caved around him and mimicked cowardly critics. Courage when seemingly everything around shouted discouragement. Courage to be a blessing and give words of blessing even as the air was filled with curses. Daily. Courage to take it, take it all, and take it with a smile.” Courage to keep going and to do so sowing seeds of peace while a multitude shouted for war. Courage to forgive … again and again and again.
 
Wow. Talk about guts for God! Talk about what it means to be a man, a true man of God!*
 
Just … wow.
 
I have one deep regret regarding, Steve: I never told me any of what I have told you here.
 
Oh, Father God, forgive me of this sin. Thank you so much for my bold and beautiful brother, Steve Bracken! Increase his tribe and count me among it. In the name of our Prince of Peace, I pray. Amen.
 
[ Two notes: * My bride and I elected Steve to officiate our wedding ceremony and I could not have been more pleased to have had such a smiling, courageous hero and champion of peace to do so. It made the moment all the more beautiful to me. * Steve died on Valentine’s Day 2015. His remains are buried in Seagoville, TX. And though I’ve never visited his grave, I’m told that engraved on his gravestone are the most of fitting words: “Keep smiling.” ]

links: this went thru my mind

 

Appreciation, encouragement, gratitude & thankfulness: 25 People You Should Say Thank You To Today [required reading]

“Sometimes we get so caught up in our own little world that we forget to thank the people who have helped us the most.”

Church announcements, communication corporate worship, worship gatherings: Why Your Church Needs More (Often) Announcements in Worship

“Historically, the church began worship services by announcing all member-related deaths. Nothing screams ‘Let’s worship!’ like announcing Aunt Geraldine’s funeral.”

Communication, disagreement, discussion, listening, unity & words: The Art of Having Conciliatory Theological Discussions – Suggestions

“It has taken me a while to figure a few things out when it comes to discussing a disagreement with someone. Here are a few observations I have made over the last few years that set a positive tone for a healthy conversation.”

Fathers, parenting & words: When Daddy is Silent

“A daddy’s silence can be deadly. Far too many men are silent at all the wrong times.  A father’s silence can communicate volumes. The absence of his voice can leave a boy or girl feeling emotionally alone.”

Humility, knowledge, leadership, ministry, missions, others, perception & understanding: What People in Other Countries Need (And What We Think They Need) [required reading]

“… keep in mind … the principle of relative deprivation. It’s the idea of wanting something because others have it.”

Ministry & prayer: What is the Most Common Ministry Priority that a Pastor Neglects?

“… week after week, I saw the things I was supposed to be doing getting squeezed out of my schedule because there were urgent demands on my time. Above all else, the one task that seemed to get squeezed out most was prayer. … Unfortunately, prayer doesn’t demand your attention. In the midst of people wanting your time and urgent tasks to complete, spending time in prayer is easy to neglect.”

LIFE group guide: give thanks, because …

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Nov. 24). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon. This sermon is entitled “Give Thanks, Because …” and is my “Thanksgiving sermon.”

To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues. All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted, are from the CEB.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this particular sermon.

To remind us of the value and blessings of a grateful spirit expressed in thankful ways.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of the sermon. Underscored words are emphasized in the Greek text.

• Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. (1 Chron. 16.8 NLT)

• Give thanks to the God of heaven— God’s faithful love lasts forever! (Ps. 136.26 CEB)

• This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God. Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough! (2 Cor. 9.10-15 The Message)

• Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … And be thankful. (Col. 3.15 NIV)

• … since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship … (Heb. 12.28 NRSV)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. What movie character or scene do you recall as profoundly depicting gratitude?

2. Tell us of something for which, over time, you have come to grow deeply thankful.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. Read 1 Chron. 16.7-13,14-18,19-22,23-27,28-30,31-33,34-36. Then do vs. 36b.

2. What specific reasons can you find in Psalm 136 to be thankful for God?

3. What exactly is the “relief offering” in view in 2 Corinthians 9.10-15?

Reflection

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. Consider what you often thank God for … and then consider what rarely shows up.

2. What tends to move you to grateful, thankful prayer to God?

3. What benefits can others enjoy from overhearing you unashamedly thank God?

4. Someone asks you, “How do I become a more grateful person?” What would you say?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid you in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Train yourself to make your very first thought/prayer each day to be one of thanks.

2. “Count your blessings, name them one-by-one.” Make a list. Add to it daily. For life.

3. Compose your own simple song of thanksgiving. Let  1 Chron. 16 and Ps. 136 aid you.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger & offense: Choosing Not To Be Offended [essential reading]

“… there are many opportunities to be offended. … Offense is always a matter of perspective. … What kind of spirit are you trying to foster in your own heart? … What is the higher road that you can walk when offended? … Decide ahead of time to show love when love has not been shown to you.”

Appreciation, love, respect & value: The Most Ignored and Undervalued People Within Churches Today

“Churches are supposed to be communities that represent Christ’s infinite love — and many of them do — but certain groups of people seem to be continually ignored, alienated, undervalued, and simply lost within American churches. … Below are categories of people that I’ve repeatedly witnessed being underappreciated within various church environments …”

Children & parenting: * The Important Thing About Yelling; * Imprint the Image of a Godly Man on Your Daughter’s Heart; * Are You Raising Entitled Kids?

* “Let me tell you what had become of me. My distractions. Excessive phone use, commitment overload, multiple page to-do lists, and the pursuit of perfection consumed me. And yelling at the people I loved was a direct result of the loss of control I was feeling in my life.”

* “Perhaps the greatest gift a father can give his daughter, outside of leading her to salvation, is to imprint the image of a Godly man on her heart. One day we will be walking our daughter down the aisle, and the choice she made for a husband will likely hinge more on our actions than hers.”

* “Breaking the chains of entitlement begins at home. As you live out gratitude and graciousness, your children will see these values as worthy. You teach them by how you live, what you say, and how you allow them to struggle and work their own way toward responsibility. You can raise kids who live with humility and thankfulness, who see and appreciate what they’re given daily by the Giver of all good gifts.”

Church: * Why People are Staying in Churches [required reading]; 10 Reasons Why We Must Love Unlovable Church Members

* “If you still attend a Christian worship assembly, what is it that keeps you coming back? Here are some reasons I see that people are staying with it …”

* “I would be lying to say I never struggle now, but I’ve learned something about loving others.”

Communication, evangelism & outreach: * 5 Churchy Phrases That are Scaring Off Millenials; * 5 Things Mistaken for Evangelism

* “… let’s examine these terrorizing and terrifying words to see if we should drop them, modify them, or indeed say them more …”

* “The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.”

Early Christianity: Where did Earliest Christians Meet?

“For some time now, the general view has been that earliest Christians met (e.g., for group worship) in houses, at least mainly. In a newly-published study, Dr. Edward Adams (Kings College London) queries this, contending that the evidence for this view isn’t as solid and consistent as commonly thought, and that the extant evidence suggests instead a variety of settings.”

Evil, disaster relief, natural disasters & the Philippines: * Philippines Disaster Draws Limited Interest, Donations; * Typhoon Haiyan and “Natural” Evil

* “About one-in-three Americans (32%) say they are very closely following news about the deadly typhoon that struck the Philippines on Nov. 8. By comparison, 55% of the public closely followed the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, 58% followed the tsunami that struck coastlines around the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004, and 60% followed the 2010 Haiti earthquake.”

* “… on Typhoon Haiyan and the reality of “natural” evil that’s not really natural at all. “This an enemy has done.” (Matthew 13:28)”

Grief: 10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

“The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.”

this went thru my mind

 

Acknowledgement, appreciation & influence: Want to Change the World in 3.2 Seconds? by Jon Acuff

“Want to reinvent the way people think about Christians? Want to start changing the reason people think Christians are jerks? It’s not that complicated. “

Christianity & politics: Christianity’s Mistress by K. Rex Butts

“… why are so many Christians focused on earthly things? Particularly, the earthly things I am speaking about is American politics.”

Doubt: The Gifts and Benefits of Doubt by Richard Beck [required reading]

“… here are some of the benefits and gifts of doubt for the church …”

Gospel: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: How MTD Destroys Christians, Part 1 by Jay Guinn [this is a portion of an on-going series; this whole series is/will be required reading]

“MTD teaches that God does not so much compel us to live a certain way as provide a means for us to live well. God gives us self-esteem. God gives us emotional health. God gives us good marriages. God gives us friends and happy relationships. God gives us congregations filled with good people who want to help us be better people. … Where did this view of religion come from? Well, largely from preachers. And Sunday school teachers. And youth ministers. And dumbed down Sunday school curriculum. Indeed, it all results from an Americanized, market-based, consumeristic approach to selling Christianity.”

Missions: The Gospel for Headhunters and Cannibals by David Burnette

“From headhunters and cannibals to 85 percent of the tribe identifying itself as Christian, the Sawi of New Guinea have undergone significant cultural transformation in the 50 years since the first missionaries arrived in the tribe’s isolated jungle
village.”

Marriage, men & women: Plutarch and Paul on Husbands and Wives by Marg Mowczko

“I recently submitted a research essay for a course I’m studying where I compare Plutarch’s Advice to the Bride and Groom with Paul’s advice to men and women in First Corinthians.  Plutarch, who wasn’t a Christian (in fact at one time he was a priest in the cult of Apollo), wrote his Advice in a letter around A.D. 90-100. … As I was reading and comparing Advice with First Corinthians it struck me how different Plutarch’s and Paul’s views were about the relationship between husbands and wives.  It also struck me that many Christians sound much more like Plutarch, rather than Paul, in what they think and say about marriage and women.”