Saturday, March 30, 2013

RUNNING FOR THE CROSS

This post was orginally published in Feb of 2011 on this blog site. However, I feel it is as relevant today as then and have reposted it for you today ....

Every sermon should be running for the Cross!


Having been involved with Pastoral Ministry for over 30 years it is hard to imagine doing anything else with the same intensity and compassion. Over the years I have worked a Substance Abuse Counselor with various agency in order to subsidies my income, but the compassion and love that I have for ministry over shadows my thinking of which I love more.

When God called me with a very clear heart felt call at the age of 13 years old, I never looked back preaching and ministry was all I could focus on. My pastor as I grew up was Dr. Don Lougheed at the Flint Baptist Temple, in Burton, Michigan: His statement to all us preacher’s boys was: “No matter where you start in the Bible in Genesis 11:1, Psalm 23, or Luke 10 your only priority is to run for the Cross!” Dr. Don said it with such compassion and he believed that the Cross was the central point of every conversation, every sermon, and every thought he had.

Why “running for the Cross” clearly the cross is the foundation point of all Christianity, and the pivotal point of our relationship with God. I once heard the illustration and don’t know who gave it. “Before the foundation of the earth the Triune Godhead was talking abut the creation of earth, mankind, and what this man should be like. Should he have a free-will, be a robot, or just someone that is a yes man? The agreement was reached he would have a Free Will to choose how he worshipped God, so the Godhead agreed that God the Father would create the world and mankind, the Son of God said since we know that a man with free will would ultimately make some bad choices HE agreed to pay the price for those bad choices (sin), and clearly the only way to do this was through the Shedding of Blood (thus have the Cross), and the Holy Spirit agreed he would lead them in the righteous path if they would listen.”

Because of these decisions so long ago we now understand the need for the Cross, Moses, Jacob, David, and all the other Patriarchs of the Old Testament, where looking for the blessed event to happen when there sins would be forgiven by the perfect lamb as discussed in Isaiah 53, the looking for the Cross to happen. As Peter, Paul, James and others of the New Testament writes sit to pen their great words of wisdom, encouragement and the message of a redeeming, loving, caring, saving Lord they are looking back at the Cross. They realize that it is through this one event, one place, and one person that all mankind can come to a perfect salvation experience.

The scripture are full of great examples of people coming to a place of believing in the personal relationship with Christ. They sought a understanding of the Cross, its importance, and the personal sacrifice by Christ that it brought for each of us.

On a note found under his pillow, in prison, after his death, Watchman Nee had written “Christ is the Son of God. He died to atone for men's sin, and after three days rose again. This is the most important fact in the universe. I die believing in Christ.” He had a understanding of the importance of the Cross, for his own personal salvation experience.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pastoral self-care in times of Crisis:


                My heart went out to the families and friends in a neighboring community this past weekend which was dealing with the loss of three teenagers in a tragic car accident.  The crash is still under investigation and all the details are not known. However, the devastation for the family and friends of this small community is going to be felt for years to come.

                As I thought about this small town crisis, my heart broke for the man of God within our denomination that would minister to these families. At least of one the children killed was a member of his church, and the others were friends of the teenager so he may even have known them as well. He will be called upon to provide emotional support, pastoral care, and answers to all the theological questions of the families in a time of crisis, mainly “WHY”

                The pastor will be challenged to work with family members at different points in the stages of grief, and keep it all straight in his mind. Family will go through the stages ranging from denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. He will not only deal with these emotions and stages of grief with the immediate family (mom, dad, sisters, and brothers) but he will also face the emotions of the grandparents, aunt, uncles, and dozens of other relationships. 

                As a pastor, associate pastor, and counselor I have never had to address the issues this pastor is facing. The funerals that I have been called on to do were of older men and women that had lived a full life, and the end was messaged in time, know that it was coming.

                As a pastor, anytime we address an unplanned death it is hard: car wreck, complication from surgery, suicide, and shooting.  These are all hard and for us as pastors/ministers, to think that we are above the emotional struggles that our members face is crazy.

                However, over the years in my role as an associate pastor and counselor I have worked with several pastors that have faced similar challenges. As I talked with them and encouraged them I shared six foundational points that I believe are essentials for “Pastoral Self Care in a time of crisis”

1.       As a pastor we must not be afraid to cry over the loss of a member of our church or a dear friend that has died; we are human and need to address our own emotions.

2.       As a pastor we must be willing to take care of our own personal physical needs, including getting enough rest, eating healthy, and getting some exercise (getting up and moving around).  On a personal note several years ago, I did a funeral about three hours from home for a family member and missed this part of the Self-care.  We drove in late that night, got very little sleep, did not eat breakfast, and went through the whole day with no rest. On the trip home that afternoon (real late) I was in the back seat with a migraine, and sick to my stomach from not eating.

3.       As a pastor we have to be willing to talk with a minister friend or counselor about our own personal emotions and feeling, especially in situation like this one where you know that individual and the family that you are dealing with.

4.       As a pastor we need to find time to continue in our personal prayer and devotional time. This is essential in keeping us grounded in the word of God, and addressing our own spiritual relationship with Christ.

5.       As a pastor we need to spend time with our own family throughout the process. This is not only for you, but for them as well. This is even more important if for example in this case (and I don’t know this for sure) the pastor has a teenage son/daughter that knew the kids that died, they may have questions that they need there pastor/father to answer as well.

6.       Lastly, as a pastor, (and sadly this is something that as pastors we are really bad about because it takes planning for the future.) every pastor should have a group of pastors/ministers that he meets with at least monthly, if not weekly to provide support and encouragement, in the great blessing a that God provides; and wise counseling,  a shoulder to cry on, and prayers that you will need as you address the challenges of death or crisis in your church.