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Pastoral Care

1 2 3 7
coffee cup

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus warns the Laodicea Church against its lukewarm walk with Jesus. Jesus tells the church that He would rather a church — or an individual, by implication — be either piping hot or stone-cold as opposed to being lukewarm.

One of my favorite scenes in the Christian Movie War Room features Miss Clara serving a cup of coffee to her new friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth has told Miss Clara that her relationship with Jesus is occasional. Comfortable. As she prepares to take a sip from her freshly-served cup, Elizabeth is shocked that the coffee isn’t hot. At all! Miss Clara connects the dots between a lukewarm faith and a lukewarm cup of coffee. God doesn’t want us to have a lukewarm faith any more than anyone wants a cup of lukewarm coffee.

Application

So, how is your walk with Jesus? If you’re reading this devotional, I assume that your spiritual walk isn’t icy cold. But is it as hot as it used to be? Or would you say that your love has grown a little cold? Perhaps it’s neither icy hot, nor piping hot, but instead is a tepid lukewarm.

Jesus is very clear that lukewarm isn’t where He wants you to be in your relationship with Him. (Revelation 3:16)

What are some things you can do to keep your faith hot? Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend some alone-time with God, asking Him to reveal those areas where you have neglected. Expect God to speak! And be ready to take notes and make adjustments to your life.
  • Prayerfully consider my devotional on Revelation 2. Ask God to bring a revival to your heart, to rekindle a neglected love relationship with the lover of your soul.
  • Prayerfully set some goals to read and study your Bible, to memorize Bible verses, to spend time praying, to join with other Believers in worship, to tell other people about Jesus, to give of yourself, etc. (in other words, to practice the Spiritual Disciplines), and then ask another Believer to hold you accountable. There’s no need to overplan to the point of burnout, but oftentimes, having a small plan — and sticking to it — beats having no plan at all.

Don’t put this off! Do it today!

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23–24 (ESV)

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In today’s Bible reading, Peter paints a very sad picture of the state of the false teachers. Worship leader and songwriter, Billy Foote’s latest song, “All the Wolves” paraphrases Peter’s words.

Destructive heresies. Greed. Made up stories. Bold arrogant people. Slander. Spots. Blemishes. Delighting in their deceptions. Eyes full of adultery, never stopping to look for sin. Gone astray by abandoning the straight path. Loving the wages of wickedness. Springs without water. Mists driven by a storm.

The list of descriptions of these false teachers continues through 2 Peter 2. If these descriptions are true, why would any child of God follow such evil people? Peter partially answers the question in 2 Peter 2:14b, “They seduce unstable people.” (CSB) Paul adds, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3 (CSB)

Application

Because they’re deceptive, they’re difficult to see. It’s like the devil. He isn’t a guy in a red suit with a pointed tail like you see in cartoons. False teachers may look slick. They may sound slick. But like wolves in sheepskin, don’t judge by outward appearances.

So how do you guard against false teachers? The Apostles give us the answers we need: Don’t be unstable. Learn sound doctrine. Read widely in your Bible, not just your favorite passages and your favorite books of the Bible. Log time in the Word. Surround yourself with consistently-strong Bible teachers. And be careful what you read and who you watch/listen to. Some of the “big names” in Bible teachers may be the worst offenders!

One of the best things you can do is plug into a solid Bible-teaching, Spirit-led church. (And I’m not just talking about going to church; I’m talking about plugging into a local church.) There you’ll find help in discerning the good and the bad, the true and the false.

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Ministry costs money

In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t eat. In other words, Believers aren’t to be freeloaders. Now, is that a cut-and-dried statement? Or is it a principle?

I think Paul intended this to be a principle. It comes down to a person’s heart, his/her motivations. If a person is able to work, but chooses not to, that’s a problem. If a person goes around constantly mooching off others, that’s a problem.

But what about someone who is “called to do God’s work”? It’s no different! If someone is called to do God’s work he/she shouldn’t wait until a paycheck comes along before doing the work. If God has called someone to do ministry, they should do ministry! If someone is genuinely called to do God’s work of sharing the gospel, Paul says they should be paid for doing the work if they so choose. If they want to work voluntarily, that’s fine. But no one should be shamed for accepting money for doing ministry. In fact, elsewhere, Paul says that laborers are worthy of their hire. (1 Timothy 5:18)

Taking on a second job in order to put food on the table is commendable; it can open up ministry opportunities as well. And a missionary or pastor shouldn’t be shamed if he does take on a second job. Neither should he be shamed for asking for financial support as his income source. Depending on the ministry, sometimes taking on a second job is impractical or impossible. And oftentimes, the people receiving ministry are unable to cover the expenses of a pastor or missionary.

Airline tickets cost money. Visas cost money. Passport processing costs money. Insurance costs money. Gas costs money. Food costs money. Ministry costs money! Fortunately, many ministries are very lean and are very good stewards. Unfortunately, not all are. And not all of the “big name” ministries are the most efficient. Beware of wolves that fleece their flocks and siphon large salaries away from those in need.

In the past, I have mentioned uniting our church with a neighboring church. This is a good thing. This is a God thing. Combining our efforts under one roof and one fellowship body will bring down the operating costs of the two churches and will free up monies to do more of God’s work. This is good stewardship! And quite frankly, I wish more churches would prayerfully consider doing the same! With the changing face of society and the declining nickels and noses in local churches, it might be the best thing to close the doors on a few dead/plateaued churches and unite the members under a new body with a new vision and new energy.

Important note: I say this having closed the doors of the first church I pastored. God was in that and He brought new life to an old building. Now, a newer, younger church is absolutely flourishing where we once floundered. God is good!

Application

Unfortunately, churches have turf wars and partnering with other churches is often difficult. It takes a lot of humility and repentance to set aside your own church and ministry preferences. We don’t like change. But oftentimes, God calls us to “suck it up” and follow Him, taking on His preferences in order to accomplish His work.

Doing God’s work requires God’s people to give. And those who work are worthy of the support of God’s people to accomplish the work.

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Grapes

Jesus gives us our purpose in today’s Bible reading: bear fruit. He is the true Vine. And Believers are branches attached to the True Vine. The responsibilities of the branches are to stay connected with the Vine and let the life of the Vine flow through them. Union and Communion.

As long as a Believer stays in Union and Communion with the Vine, the life of the Vine produces fruit. Notice that the Vine produces the fruit through the branches. The branches bear fruit produced by the Vine.

Branches that are not attached to the Vine are gathered up and burned (John 15:6) because they take up space in the vineyard. But branches that are attached to the Vine, but aren’t bearing fruit are lifted up[1] (John 15:2) and given special attention so they can bear fruit. By raising up those branches, they are taken off the ground where the fruit was stepped on or stolen by a rodent or some other hungry animal.

Application?

How’s your fruit bearing? Do you bear the fruit produced by Jesus in your life?

Have you felt discouraged, just waiting for Jesus to come along and remove you from the vineyard? Rest assured that if you are still in union and communion with the Vine, you can never be cast aside. Instead, the Master Gardener will deal with you so that you can bear fruit.

Check your connection. Draw your life from the True Vine. And bear the fruit.

[1] Most modern English translations miss this key point, leading to some amount of confusion about the destiny of non-fruit-bearing branches that are still attached to the Vine. The Greek word means to raise up or to lift up, not to take away or to remove.

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Jesus washes His Disciples' feet
Imaage source: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading, John tells us that Jesus washes the Disciples’ feet. All Twelve Disciples. Including Judas.

This is an Inconvenient Truth about Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. And yet, He served him. He washed Judas’ feet in the same way as He washed Simon Peter’s feet. And John the Beloved Disciple’s feet. Jesus knew their hearts completely. And yet, He served them all. Including Judas.

If Jesus knew His Disciples’ hearts completely, and yet washed their feet, then I — not knowing peoples’ hearts — don’t have a place to decide to whom I can/should minister.

And neither do you.

Application

God doesn’t give me the choice of whom I minister to. When I said, “Yes” to Jesus’ call to discipleship, my answer was forever, “Yes”. My call to “The Ministry” is no different.

Jesus said that no student is greater than his master. (John 13:16) If Jesus had a Judas, how could I think that I am above having my own Judas(es)?

Jesus tells us to count the cost to be His disciple. And when I look at what Jesus’ death accomplished for me, what right could I possibly claim to exempt me from “having” to minister to anyone?

When it comes down to it, you really can never say, “No, Lord.” If Jesus is Lord, then the answer must be “Yes.” To answer, “No” is to deny Him as Lord.

Jesus is Lord of all or not Lord at all.

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1 2 3 7

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