Idols can’t save

Near the end of my college career at the beginning of my professional career, I got a credit card. I thought it would be a good way for me to build credit for any future purchases I might need to make like buying a house.

At first, I was good about paying it off. But little by little I began to carry debt on that card. The more debt I amassed the more my monthly payment became. Eventually, I had amassed so much debt I was barely making the monthly interest payment. But I kept on spending.

Now I didn’t let things get too out of control. I was in sales. Whenever I would get a big bonus, I would pay down my debt. Over the years, I would yo-yo between debt and paying it off. Back and forth, back and forth I would go. That is until I met Jen. At the time, Jen was much more financially responsible. She didn’t carry debt on her credit cards. She paid them off every month.

When we got engaged, she told me she wanted me to pay off my debt before we got married. I had to buckle down. I couldn’t keep buying. Racking up the credit card debt. Thankfully, the Lord blessed me with several deals that provided enough bonus money to pay off my debt before we married. Since then, Jen and I have never carried any debt on our credit card. We pay it off at the end of each month.

Reflecting back on my time in debt, the reason I kept spending was that I thought another experience or another possession would satisfy me.“If I just did that or had this, I would be good,” I thought. But nothing ever satisfied, which is why I had so much debt.

Idols can’t deliver on their promises. They can’t provide us with ultimate joy and satisfaction. They can’t save us. God wants us to understand that — Idols can’t save instead they leave us empty. If we hold on to them, if we cling to them, they will eventually lead us to death. Not just physical death, but eternal death.

Pastor, please the Lord, not self or man.

”For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thess 2:3-4)

True workmen for the Lord do not have ulterior motives. They should not be greedy. Their desire should not be to amass wealth, status, or position off the backs of those they are to serve and to whom they are to preach the good news. One should not enter ministry for riches or acclaim.

Ministers are entrusted with the gospel. They are speak the truth in love, not to please man, but to please God. Here in lies the difficulty. God is our boss/master not man. Sometimes those two are at odds. When they are at odds with one another, our default should not be to please man, rather our default should be to please God, trusting He will care for us.

Pastor, why do you preach? Why do you serve? Is it for your own gain or the gain of others? Do you trust God to provide or do you fear man? As Pastors, we serve an audience of One (God) to the pleasure of many (the congregation). Our focus must always be on pleasing the Lord not self or man.

God Works Through Others to Refine Us

God not only works through circumstances, but He also works through others to get our attention.

I distinctly remember one time when this happened in my life. It was when I was in college. When I moved off to the University of Georgia, I got involved in the party scene. One night in particular I was sitting at the bar with a friend and we were talking about religion. He was an atheist, so I was telling him why he should believe in Jesus. In the course of conversation, I remember him looking at me and saying,

“You know, you’re telling me about Jesus. How He is supposed to change your life and all, but I don’t see a difference between you and I. We pretty much do the same thing, live the same life.”

While I’d like to tell you things changed that night, I can’t. But what I can tell you is that God did get my attention with that conversation and it was the catalyst for future change in my life.

God may be speaking to you through someone else right now.

It might be a friend, it might be a spouse, it might be a church member or someone in the community.
God will use a number of different people to speak into our lives. We need others to speak into our lives. We need everyday relationships with other church members who can hold us accountable and are willing to speak to the truth of God’s Word into our life.

Listen when others speak

When others speak, we need to be willing to listen and then do the hard work of assessing whether what they are saying is right or not, and then make the necessary changes if it is.

When you are assessing whether the person is right or not, don’t do it in the moment of that conversation. Our first reaction to others confronting us with something we are doing against God’s will or loving more than God is almost always to be defensive, so don’t assess right then, unless you are convicted. Instead, assess later when you are out of the moment. Spend some time afterward in personal reflection and prayer. Maybe even ask others you know if they see that in you as well.

God will use others along with circumstances to convict and teach us.

Goals Lead to Success but hold them loosely

Goals, whether they are small or large almost everyone has them. That is especially true this time of year. We call them resolutions, but essentially they are our goals for the next year.

Goals for the New Year

Personal Goals

I’ve set some goals for 2021. Like most people, one of my goals is to be healthier. 2020 did a number on me. We went from stocking up on M&M’s to Oreo’s to Ice Cream and then holiday candy and treats. Before I knew it, I had put on 20 in 2020.

If I were to poll the audience, I am sure many of you have a goal to live healthier this next year as well. Or maybe you are planning on striking out on your own and starting a new business. You are finally going to do it. Or maybe your goal is to finish school or that big project you have been working on. Maybe you want to read more or through the Bible in 2021. If you don’t have any other goals, I’d certainly suggest reading through the Bible in a year as a worthwhile goal. Or maybe you want to downsize, clean out those closets and garage. Whatever it might be, I’m sure you have some goals, a New Years Resolution, or two in mind.

Almost 50 percent of people make New Year’s resolutions. 80% of those people believe they will keep their New Years resolution, but the truth is New Years resolutions are not easy to keep. According to the Washington Post, only 46 percent of those who make resolution will keep them for six months and 8 percent the whole year. That is a staggering statistic. Only 8% hit their goal, which means 92% of all people fail at keeping their New Years Resolution.1

Since New Years resolutions are not easy to keep, the goals we set are not easy to attain so:

  • We must be realistic with the goals we set.
  • We need a good foundation upon which to build.
  • We need others to help us realize our goals.

Church Goals

As a church, we need the same. We need a goal for which to reach or we are going to flounder around like a fish out of water. We also have to be realistic with the goals we set. We have to build on a good foundation. We need one another to help us realize our goals.

Goals Lead to Success

We have to know in what direction we are going before we head out. I’d encourage you to develop some personally goals for the year.

If you are a brother pastor, develop some ministry goals as well. Develop goals for your personal ministry as well as your church’s ministry. If we are going to see success in 2021, we must develop goals.

Hold Them Loosely

While it is important we develop goals, we must hold our goals loosely. If 2020 taught us anything, our goals, whether they be personal or ministry-related, might not match God’s goals for us. Develop goals, but hold those goals loosely as you pray for the Lord’s guidance, empowerment, and ultimately for His will to be done.


[1] https://www.finder.com/new-years-resolution-statistics AND https://www.wrpawprint.com/features/2015/01/27/failing-new-years-resolutions/

In a time of political and national upheaval, turn to the Lord!

“My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:2)

In a time of political and national upheaval, the Psalmist’s reminder this morning is appropriate. Our help is from the Lord. Politicians and leaders come and go. They promise one plan of action and do another. They let us down routinely either in action or character.

The Lord, however, is not another politician or leader. The Lord is the One who fashioned the heavens and the earth. He keeps His promises and has the power to bring about that which He wills.

Instead of turning to man, we should turn to the Lord as our help. He does not sleep or slumber (vs 3-4). He is always alert. He knows everything that happens. He is our protector, promising to watch over and keep us on a daily basis, keeping us from evil and destruction (vs 5-8).

We can and should put our life in the Lord’s hands. We can and should trust He will always do what is right. We can and should rest in His ability to accomplish His perfect will.

In a time of political and national upheaval, turn to the Lord!

Pastor, Just Attend

Yesterday was one of those rare days in the life of a minister, I just attended a worship service. I know what you are probably thinking,

But pastor, you attend a worship service every week, that is kinda what you do. That’s your big day. What you have been preparing for and working towards all week.

You would be right. I attend worship every week. When I attend, I worship alongside others, but I also lead the worship I attend – I pray, I read Scripture, I preach, and I distribute the communion elements.

In Your Shoes

Yesterday, however, someone else did all those things. Someone else led the worship I attended. Essentially, I was in your shoes. I was greeted at the door by friendly greeters who didn’t call me pastor. I attended a Sunday School class where I participated as a visitor. I sat in the pew during the service singing, praying, and listening to the sermon with everyone else. As we took communion, I sat next to my son explaining to him what the bread and grape juice (Baptist Church) represented. I just attended the worship service.

Not a Divide

I don’t say “I just attended” to create a divide between those attending and those leading. I don’t believe the clergy are superior to the congregant. I believe in the priesthood of all believers. I have no more of a connection to God than other Christians. We are all called by God to our vocation. So I don’t make that distinction in order to make light of attending worship or to create a divide between the attendee and the leader. Instead, I make the distinction because it is rare for pastors to not be involved in some way in the worship service. It is rare for them to just attend.

Refreshing

While there was a moment during the preaching portion of the service that I missed standing behind the pulpit proclaiming the Word, it was refreshing to attend and worship with other likeminded brothers and sisters in the Lord. It was good for my soul. It provided me rest. It even confirmed to me my calling to preach.

Pastor, Just Attend

Pastor, let me encourage you to take a Sunday off, attend another church where others don’t know you as pastor, and just attend. Don’t agree to read Scripture or pray. Don’t agree to be a guest speaker. Don’t participate in the service as a minister in any way, just attend with everyone else. Just worship with everyone else. Take a break and let someone else lead. It will be good for your soul. It will provide you rest. And it may even confirm your calling to preach. Pastor, just attend.