Archive for August, 2009

When I was a pastor in Oklahoma, I met a pastor of one of the local Baptist churches, a young man about my age.  We talked about the similarities between us – backgrounds, age, and church size, as we as our differences – where we went to school, where we grew up, our doctrinal differences.  One of those striking differences was in the way our congregations viewed the pastor and how they expressed their appreciation.  He was telling me how excited he was about the upcoming anniversary of his arrival at his church because, as he told me, he would receive $500 in cash and three new suits – at least that’s what they had given him the last five years since he first arrived.  It was their way of celebrating their time together as church and pastor and also one of the ways they expressed their appreciation for their spiritual leader.  He then asked me what I got from my church.  I guess I never thought about that because I had never received anything from either of the churches where I had served as their pastor.  In talking with other Adventist pastors about that, they informed me that Adventists feel that expressing appreciation to the pastor was the equivalent of clapping in the church, that is, it was giving glory to the person and not to God.  Others told me their church members would say things like, “we pay his salary, isn’t that enough?”
Well, I’m glad to say that not all churches or church members feel that way.  The Waukesha Community Church in Wisconsin, where I served as their pastor for seven years was always very kind and supportive of their spiritual leader and his family.  Christmas, birthdays, and wedding anniversaries were always times when we received cards, gifts, money, flowers, food, and many wonderful and memorable celebrations.  Every October, which is Pastor Appreciation Month was one of those times when the church made a special demonstration of their love for their pastor and his family.  Every September, at the end of the church board meeting for that month, I was “ordered” by the members to leave. . . because they wanted to decide on what they were going to do in October and how much would be spent out of the church funds and how they would get the entire congregation involved in the celebration.  One year, knowing that my guitar case was old and falling apart, I received a brand new, hard case which has protected my guitar ever since.  Another year, the church sent my wife and I to enjoy a romantic weekend at a hotel, all expenses paid for the two of us.  They didn’t forget my wife who received gift certificates, flowers, or clothes, and neither did they forget our girls who received stuffed animals, books, music, and candy at different times.  We still have the many hand written notes, letters, and cards we received through the years telling us of the ways they felt we had help them, the messages they had enjoyed or appreciated, the visits or special events in which we had participated.  At a time when cell phones were not commonly used by all, and were very expensive, the church offered us to make as many long distance calls to our family from the church as we wanted to, at their expense.
In my position as Ministerial Director of the conference I mail in September a letter to the head elder of every church to remind them and encourage them to set aside one Sabbath in October to express their appreciation to their pastor and his family, for their ministry to them, for the sacrifices they have made to serve them (like moving every few years leaving behind family and friends, or like having to sell and buy a house every time they move and often losing money on the process, or like having to pluck their children out of one school and from their group of friends and planting them in a new school among total strangers).  I encourage the head elders to gather their church board and their social committee to plan for a special day of celebration, and to also express their appreciation in tangible ways – cards, letters, gifts, food, a cake, gift certificates, a weekend getaway.  If the pastor or his wife live far from their home, maybe round trip tickets to see their family.  I encourage them to not forget the pastor’s spouse who is often forgotten even though they are such important part of the pastor’s ministry.  I also encourage the elder that in their planning they should keep in mind the pastor’s children, many of whom live under great pressure to be better than everybody else and who are often denied the freedom to express themselves and to be “normal” children.
October will be here soon.  If you read these words, take it upon yourself to talk to your church members and organize such an event to celebrate your pastor’s ministry and to express your appreciation for their service to the Lord and to His people – and don’t forget their family.

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Even If Mom Forgets. . .

Scripture: (Isa 49:15-16 NKJV)  “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. {16} See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.

Observation: After Isaiah speaks of what God intends to do to punish Babylon and to free His people,  he then writes about how God will restore His people, because He has never forgotten them.  With longing God says, “Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea. {19} Your descendants also would have been like the sand, And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; His name would not have been cut off Nor destroyed from before Me.” (Isa 48:18-19 NKJV) How much better they would have been, had they heeded God’s commandments. . .
In Chapter 49, God speaks some of the most tender words about His relationship with His children, even His wayward ones; those are the words of our text for today.

Application: I was blessed to be born to and raised by a very loving mother.  She thought of and prayed for each of her six children until the day of her death.  She sacrificed, worked hard, and did all she could to provide each with a warm, clean home, good, healthy food, and proper manners and education.  She left her birth home as a young wife to raise her family with the husband of her youth, the father of her children.  And after twenty-eight years of marriage, when she became a widow, she continued to work and look for ways to support her children still at home.  At an age when others would be starting to look forward to retirement, she left her homeland, her life-long friends, and moved to the U.S. with her two younger children in order to provide them with the best opportunities for a successful future.  At times she worked two jobs to support her two boys, cooked and cleaned for them, and saved what she could to help them and her other children now grown and married.
I read the words of God through Isaiah and understand it better because of my mother.  She never forgot any of her six children, even while they grew up and were far removed from their days of nursing.  Even while physically distant, and even when some of them seemed emotionally distant, she never stopped to have love and compassion for them.  And yet the text says that even if for some strange reason my mother had forgotten any of us, God never would, never did.
Praise God for my mom!  Praise God. . .!

Prayer: I thank You, Father, for my mother and all the gifts of love, compassion, and care You gave me all wrapped up in her heart.  I look forward to resurrection morning when we meet again to never be apart forever.

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