An excellent article on the truth behind world religions…
The other day, I put together a top ten list of things a pastor should and could do to stay healthy and effective, listed in no particular order. The first one on the list is to Pray fervently.
Jesus demonstrated and taught on prayer multiple times in the gospels. Even though He was inundated with the sick, the poor, the curious, and those who would oppose Him, Jesus would often go off to pray. He prayed before choosing the twelve. He prayed and enjoyed intimacy with the Father. He even prayed to affirm and submit to the Father’s will.
So why don’t we pray like we should? Why is the prayer life of the Christian and even the church leader so sparse and spotty? We know we should pray, and we want to pray, yet we don’t do what we want or know to do.
We don’t pray like we should because even as Christians, we are fighting the battle of the flesh. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” The truth is that our sinful flesh wants to be independent of God, while God wants us to be dependent. Though we might want to be self sufficient and self reliant and self indulgent, we need to constantly remind ourselves that God’s grace is sufficient, autonomous, and glorifying of God.
So let me encourage you: recognize that the lack of prayer is a battle of the flesh, and go directly to the heart of the matter: repent and submit. Prayer is submission, plain and simple, It’s a submission to God and a recognition of His sovereignty. It’s a intimacy in the Spirit and a growth of one’s faith. It’s a passion for God who had a passion for you.
You are locked in a spiritual battle that will be resolved only after Christ’s return. Just as a soldier wouldn’t go into battle without being equipped, you need to be equipped spiritually. In fact, without being equipped, it’s just plain scary. Put on that full armor, “Pray at all times in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18) and increase your dependence and intimacy with the One who loved you and gave His Son for you.
I have been in ministry for twenty plus years (yikes!), either serving on staff or as a senior pastor, and I will admit that through this journey, I have blown it many times. However, I am thrilled that God has given me grace over the years. One of my main struggles has been to manage myself and to avoid burnout. Boy, have I learned! That said, I thought that I would put together a top ten list of things a pastor should and could do to stay healthy and effective, listed in no particular order. I hope it helps:
- Pray fervently– never underestimate the need to pray and the power of prayer.
- Read God’s Word devotionally– don’t just read for studying purposes, read to take in the Word of God to speak to your heart.
- Take one or two days off a week, and be sure to take vacations. And don’t apologize for it, you need time away.
- Set healthy boundaries. Cell phones should go off at a certain time. Email and texts can wait. Your kids and spouse should not see your face in front of an electronic device more than they see your face in front of them.
- Exercise three times a week, at least. It keeps you in shape and lowers stress.
- Eat healthy. Fast food meals catch up to you fast.
- Get in a Bible study in which you are not the teacher. You need to learn and grow from a small group, too. I go to a community men’s study and go out of my way to be “one of the guys.”
- Date. I mean your spouse. Do it monthly.
- Go to special events. If you have kids or grandkids, go to their games, plays, etc. And don’t go as a pastor and talk to others- focus on them as a parent or grandparent.
- Have an accountability partner. Find another pastor, preferably outside of your denomination. I have had men in my past who I had as confidants, and it was so rich- and by the way, we never spoke about the nonessentials of theology.
I will be commenting over the next few weeks on each point, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments on all of this, and if you think that there are other things I didn’t write about…
Eph 6:18 (NASB), “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”
This week has honestly been one of the hardest weeks of my life. Without getting into the details, my wife and I have been shedding tears in praying for a solution to a crisis. We ceased to eat at times, cried spontaneously at others, dreamed dreams about it, got angry, got numb, even tried to put it out of our minds, and nothing has seemed to work. It feels like our life has completely changed since last weekend, and in many ways, it has felt like a death has occurred in our family.
Yet, in God’s great love and provision, He has given us a gift: a wonderful church family. Last night, my church gathered to pray for me, my wife and our family. I began the night by saying that this was not about me, but it was all about Christ and His Kingdom, and my wife and I felt like we should pray for other families as well. However, my church recognized the trials that we were undergoing were spiritual trials, and that the enemy is the source of this spiritual warfare. Satan and his demons will attack God’s people with fiery darts wherever he can, and the collateral damage that we have been feeling in this crisis is only a taste of how evil the devil is. Satan, after all, seeks to kill and destroy (John 10:10a).
Yet, God is greater! What we experienced last night was one of the most amazing, incredible outpourings of love that we have ever felt from a church. For an hour and a half, we had person after person laying hands on us, praying for us, crying for us, and interceding for us. In the middle of a month in which many churches celebrate “Pastor Appreciation Month,” there was no greater way that I have felt appreciated than last night. We experienced love in action by our church family, our blessed family, forever bonded to us by the blood of Jesus!
We feel that we have fully put on the full armor of God and are ready for battle against Satan and his minions. If God is for us, who can be against us? The gates of Hell cannot and will not prevail, and the trials of today will only mean more glory for God tomorrow. I pray that this lesson that I learned from my church will apply to you: be honest about your battles with one another, care for one another, and most of all, love one another with a fervent heart. And know this: whatever your trial, God is always going to provide His Word, His way, His people, but most of all (and without fail), His presence.