Radioactive God: The Problem

For nearly 17 years I have worked in a local hospital. Obviously radiation safety is a big concern in that environment. In fact, every year we are required to go through a brief training on the subject. Recently I found myself thinking about how this parallels our relationship with God.
You see there are 3 major concerns when it comes to radiation.
  1. Distance
  2. Time
  3. Intensity

To ensure your safety when if comes to radiation you want to put as much distance as possible. Limit your exposure time as much as possible and at as little intensity as possible. This is how many people, even Christians, handle their relationship with God.

Distance
When Moses spent time with God on top of a mountain he came back visibly changed. This was due to him being in close proximity to God. Many of us do all we can to avoid getting to close to God. Maybe we don’t intentionally avoid getting close to God, but we certainly aren’t working to get closer to him.
Time

When I was a kid, growing up in the church, good church people went to an hour of Sunday School followed by an hour worship service. Then they would come back for Sunday evening service. Then, of course, there was Wednesday night Bible study.

Well, most churches don’t do Sunday school any longer, nor is there a Sunday evening service or midweek Bible study. Many of these churches have replaced Sunday school and midweek Bible study with home based small groups.

Now, I am not saying that these changes are bad, or wrong. What I am saying is that the end result, for many Christians, is less time of exposure.
Intensity

The change that Moses experienced on the mountain was not only due to his being close to God, but also because of the INTENSITY of that encounter. Unfortunately, God is not sitting on top of some mountain somewhere waiting for us to come and be exposed to Him. I love church. BUT, let’s face it most weekend church services would not be considered mountain top experiences.

As implied by the Title, this post tells us the Problem. Check back as I take a closer look at each one of these. I will look closer at the problems these present and how we can fix them.
Click on the links below to read each of the posts in this series.
Radioactive God: Time
Radioactive God: Intensity
Radioactive God: Shielding

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All Alone in a Crowd

Recently I had a conversation with a coworker about how the enemy wants to isolate us. We observed how people spend many  hours searching for artificial community online yet walk around with headphones when around real people. If they would just take a moment and pulled their headphones out and maybe talk to someone they might find that the connection they so desperately long for has been right in front of their face the entire time. My coworker went on to say that sometimes the most isolated people are those in ministry. I couldn’t help by think just how true that is.

Why is that?

Well, for starters there are  some things that we just can’t share with everybody. I mean when a member of the church shares something in confidence, you can’t really go telling your BFF. Sure you can talk to another member of the staff or the senior pastor, but what if they are the problem. I mean with whom do you share your frustrations about another member of the staff or the senior pastor. Loyalty dictates that you can’t share it with members of the church. Doing so can cause division within the church. The Bible gives us clear instructions to protect the unity of the church. What you said while simply venting or trying to work through your frustration may change the feelings of another person. This could be just the wedge that the enemy needs to divide your church or to pull someone out of the church.

What’s the cure?

Well, I would love to say that I have he answer. I do know that networking is part of it. I, personally, have a group of Children’s Pastor friends that I turn to when life/ministry gets tough. This group has been of more value than I could every express here. However, even with this there are some limitations. There are certain things that there just doesn’t seem to be ANYONE that I can share with.

As pastors/ministry leaders we are some of the most public people around. We are more often surrounded by people than just about any other profession. This is because our work is all about PEOPLE. Unfortunately, with the limitations on who we can confide in, we may often find ourselves surrounded by people and yet still feeling all alone.

So, how do we counter this? Well, here are some things that I have found that help.

  1. Nurture your relationship with God.
    1. May seem like a no brainer, but it can be easy to overlook.
  2. Nurture a healthy relationship with your spouse.
    1. This one may also SEEM obvious, but it is often the first relationship that we ignore. We know as pastors/ministry leaders that we CANNOT ignore our relationship with God. Well, the relationship with your spouse comes in as a close second in importance.
  3. Nurture relationships with other Christian adults.
    1. This can be any number of people. For me it is my older brother (who is probably reading this) and my father.
  4. Network
    1. There is little better relief for the stresses of ministry than simply knowing that you are not alone. Reach out to other people that do what you do.
    2. The internet makes this really easy. Sites like CMConnect make it super easy.
    3. Local: Even with the internet, there is something about having someone that you can sit and chat over a meal or over some coffee and work some things out. Seek out others in your area that do what you do. Invite one to coffee, host a breakfast at your church. Do what ever you have to do to connect. Your ministry may depend on it some day.

Ministry can feel very lonely at times. Share with me what you have found that helps you avoid feeling isolated.


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Margin = Ministry: Spirit

Financially speaking margin is having some money left over after meeting all your obligations. Previously I’ve look at how margin in your finances and time can positively effect your ministry.  Below are links to those two posts.

Margin = Ministry: Money

Money = Ministry: Time

Today we look at the benefits of margin in your spiritual life.

In Matthew 6:33 Jesus instructs us to “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Often time in ministry we live our lives as if Jesus’ instruction was, “Seek first your ministry and your blog and His kingdom will be given to you.” I know this sounds crazy, but this is how many of us in ministry live our lives. Our ministry becomes the most important thing in our life. Most of us do this out of a true love for God and a desire to impact the lives of people. Inspite of our good motives, our actions are bad. I fell into this trap.

As I see it there are a few problems with this approach:

  1. When we place our ministry above God then our ministry becomes just that, OUR ministry. It was never intended to be that way. It is God’s ministry and we are simply the vessels he uses. We are the conduit through which His ministry flows. We are simply the ones called to translate His leadership to the people He called us to lead. When done right it is not we that lead our ministries, but God through us.
  2. When God is not leading our ministry, then our ministry can only be as good as we are, generally speaking. I know that there are times that God has worked in/through my ministry far beyond my capacity. He did this not because of me, but inspite of me. However, when I have seen Him move the most has been when I am most in tuned to Him.
  3. As Brian Dollar says in his book, I Blew It, we are destined to burn out if we place our ministry above God. If we are to survive in ministry, and especially if we are going to thrive, then we HAVE to put God in his rightful place.

Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Anything that we place before God can become an idol to us, even our ministry (I address this topic specifically HERE.)  As Christians our very lives should be an overflow of our relationship with Jesus. How much more should our ministry be an overflow of this same relationship. As such our primary focus should be on our relationship with Jesus. By “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness” we will find that our ministry goals become easier to achieve. We will find that our ministry is capable of going even further than we might have dreamed. We will find that the Spirit of God will work in and through our ministry to change lives.

Take a moment to evaluate your life. Is God number 1?


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If Anyone Will Not Welcome You

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14, 15 HCSB)
 
In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus sends out his disciples. He instructs them not to take anything with them. He goes on to say that when they enter a town or village to find who is worthy and stay with them. Then he says the words quoted above.
 
These are harsh words. You remember how the story of Sodom and Gomorrah ended. Two towns so wicked that God personally wiped them off the face of the earth. Yet Jesus says that it will be better on judgement day for these cities than for anyone who will not welcome these disciples. This is shocking. However, what I find even more shocking is that most people in the church today would find themselves among those that did not welcome the disciples.
 
Pastor Matt, that’s a pretty harsh accusation. How can you say such a thing?
 
As a kid I remember my parents housing people that travelled into town. Sometimes these people were doing something at our church, other times they were doing mission work in, or near our town. In either case these were disciples that entered our town and were looking for who was worthy and they found us. It is shocking how seldom this happens these days. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but the examples are few and far between. My own experience has been that it is very difficult to find these that are worthy. Those that are willing to invite a disciple into their home, even if they had never met him before.
 
In April I will be traveling to Atlanta to attend the Orange Conference. I have no money for lodging and barely enough money for gas and food. So I will be doing as Jesus instructed. I will enter the town and look for someone that is worthy. I will make no reservations and I will carry no money for lodging. I will pray that God will provide a place for me to stay and then I am going to sit back and see what God does.
 
Now some questions for you:
  • If a disciple entered your town would they find you worthy? 
  • Would you welcome them into your home? 
  • When was the last time you did? 
  • When was the last time you opened your home for a fellow believer who was sent into town by Jesus, to do His work?
Maybe your reading this and thinking that I am wrong. I hope I am. Please share the stories of when you have done this. Share stories of when someone you know has done this. If you see that this is still happening, please renew my hope in the church’s willingness to minister to it’s own.

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Do You See the Crowd?

This is a devotional that I wrote specifically for a group of people that were gathering to go out into the community to reach people, but I. Ow plan to share it with my entire team. Feel free to share it with your team.

Matthew 9:35-38

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. The he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask The Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”

Questions

  • Do you see the crowd?
    • In the chapters leading up to this we see where a great many people have been following Jesus. Clearly He was aware of the crowd. However, here Matthew makes a distinction between simply being aware of the crowd and really seeing them.
    • Consider the beach. When you’re at the beach you can’t help but see the sand. It’s everywhere you look. However, how often do you actually a see the sand. I mean how often do you see the individual grains of sand that come together to make up the beach. I would bet that most of rarely, if ever see the sand in this way.
    • This is what it means when it says that Jesus “saw the crowds”. So again I ask, “Do you see the crowd?
  • Do you have compassion on them?
    • Jesus not only saw past the multitude of bodies to actually see the crowds, but he also had compassion on them. He cared about their probleMs.
  • The harvest is His.
    • Let us not forget that the harvest is God’s. We are but laborers working to gather what belongs to jour almighty God.

Often times we go through life completely oblivious to the crowds around us. We may be aware of people, but we seldom notice the individuals. Even more seldom do we see, or care about their problems. Jesus not only saw the crowds, but cared about their problems.

Here are a couple of things I would invite you to think about.

  • See the crowds.
    • As we go out into the community as a church, look around. Try to move beyond simply being aware of the crowds to actually seeing them, as Jesus did. Try to see past the multitude of people around you to see individuals.
    • As you go about your daily lives whether it be at work, at the store, or even just driving down your street; try to see the crowds as Jesus did. We are always aware of them, but let’s seek to move beyond simply being aware of them and start seeing them.
  • Have compassion on them.
    • As you begin to actually see the people around you, strive to care about them. Look for those that might be hurting, or that might have some need.
    • Over the years I have found that when a person is hurting, what they say with their mouth and what they say with their eyes are often very different. I America it has become uncommon for people to actually look each other in the eye, especially if they don’t know each other. I encourage you to not only look people in the eye, but look into their eyes. Look for the pain that their words may hide, but that their eyes can’t.

Prayer

  1. First pray that God would help you to see the crowd even as Christ did in Matthew 9.
  2. Next pray that God would give you compassion for the crowd that you see.
  3. Now pray to, “the Lord of the harvest to send out works into His harvest.
  4. Finally pray that God would give us, The Rock, the opportunity and the means to meet the needs of the crowds and that, through us, the Gospel would spread in the communities we serve.

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