Month: April 2013

Weighty Words

In your teaching, show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned … Titus 2:7b-8a

I had not seen this young leader in almost a year and the difference in 12 months was remarkable. In times past, I could see the obvious talent and the potential for influence, but the big difference was in the weight of his words. He spoke and lead with authority and the congregation was listening, leaning in and following him.

His words carried a serious and sound tone that resonated from a deep place he had discovered somewhere along the way. I was proud of him and I told him so. That is no easy accomplishment. Similar things were said about Jesus after he spoke the Sermon on the Mount. The crowds were amazed because he spoke with authority (Matthew 7:28-29).

We can suppose this happening for Jesus, but how does it happen in us? What is it that calls us out of adolescence and into deeper waters? I do not want to melt this down into some overly simplistic list of actions, but I do believe the scripture from Titus that I quoted above gives some insights into the process.

1. Integrity

There must be integrity in our study and teaching. We should only teach what we have truly learned and practiced. I agree that we can teach things we have not perfected, but we can only give away what we have acquired. If we are not generous, our teaching on giving will fall flat. If we are not loving our own spouses, speaking on marriage is a waste of our time. Private devotion always precedes public promotion, especially with teaching the scriptures.

2. Seriousness

Serious study leads to serious teaching. I believe we should not only read our favorite commentaries but we should also read some challenging viewpoints from other tribes of scholars. If we cannot listen to honest debate and then defend our position, maybe we should pause our teaching until we are really believing. Find some teachers who are more conservative or liberal than you and get to know them. Try hard to understand their differing viewpoints. I promise it will only make your messages more clear and less combative.

3. Soundness of speech

The language we use to speak does not just happen accidentally. Our words are formed in us either purposely or haphazardly. Readers become better writers and writers produce better speakers. We must learn to read not just for information, but as students of “how” they communicate. That is one reason any serious speaker must learn to appreciate the storytelling of the classic novelists. The way details are woven through the fabric of a story will only help our own writing skills which then shapes our own storytelling. Reading to write and writing to speak takes discipline and time, but in the end, it gives our words weight.

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How I Deal with Disappointments

If you are going to be a pastor, you will face disappointments. Sorry for the buzz kill beginning, but that is the truth. The offerings will sometimes be less than your church expenses; the sermon you planned to preach was a lot better than the one you actually preached. People will leave your congregation for the silliest of reasons. Your kids and spouse will give you “the look” when you arrive home with an empty emotional cup. The list could go on and on, I promise.

But the good news is that God is working at all times on our behalf in the invisible realms, and he is well aware that all of that invisibility will cause us distress from time to time. The job doesn’t pan out. The house doesn’t sell. The marriage doesn’t last. The runaway doesn’t return. The investment doesn’t yield viable returns. Circumstances scatter our dreams and wreck our plans. Or so it seems, anyway. We simply cannot see what God sees. We cannot know what he alone knows.

 

And so we wrestle. We admit disappointment. We engage in earnest dialogue with our God. But in the end, whether resolution is reached or not, we come around to the same vow: “I will not fall away. I trust you, Father. I really do. And while I don’t understand what you’re doing, I know you are guiding me along righteousness’ path. I’m disappointed but not disheartened, Lord. You’re still God, and you are good.”

I’m learning a couple of things these days about how to let God be God in my life. First, I now realize that I’m most vulnerable to feelings of insecurity and disappointment when I’m walking through a season of significant change. Criticism of any kind is never fun. But it carries a special sting when I’m operating off my normal routine. During a typical week, I have systems in place for staying connected to Christ, my family, my friends, my staff, and my goals regarding finances, health, and growth. But toss a new role, a new city, a new house in the mix, and those systems take a hit. As a result, I’m thrown off-balance. I’m uncertain. I’m self-doubting. I’m tired. This is when Satan loves to strike. Simply knowing when to watch out for my enemy helps me block his predictable blow.

Second, I’m learning that there is safety in numbers. Specifically, the more I can hang around secure, measured, kind people, the more those tendencies rub off on me. Secure people live free from anxiety and fear. They are immovable, unshakeable, firm. And they teach me to live this way too.

I’m married to the most secure person I know. Pam and I have gone through some of the biggest traumas and crises a couple can face, and yet she remains fixed and steady and sound. When I arrive home each afternoon, I know I’ll be walking into an environment marked by peace. There is little drama in the Boyd home, because my bride has done her due diligence on the insecurity front. She has fought the battles she needed to fight in order to prevail secure and strong. As you’d imagine, it’s a huge gift to be married to someone like that.

A third thing I’m learning is that it’s really difficult to stay disappointed at someone or some circumstance that you are praying for regularly. I should clarify here that by “pray for” I don’t mean “ask God to strike them with a bad case of oozing boils.”

There is a country song out right now that starts out as a repentant ballad. A heartbroken guy finds himself sitting in church one Sunday, devastated over his girlfriend walking out on him. For the first time in his life, he’s actually open to advice from a preacher on what to do. “You can’t go on hating others who have done wrong to you,” the preacher says that day at church. “Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn. Let the good Lord do his job, and you just pray for them.”

So the guy decides to take the high road and pray for the gal who broke his heart—that her brakes would go out, that a flowerpot would fall from a windowsill and knock her in the head, that her birthday would come and nobody would call, and that her dreams would never come true.

Not exactly the kind of prayers I mean.

And then, a fourth lesson, even if more trivial than the first three: A good night’s sleep works wonders when you’re wrestling with disappointment. Before you reply on Facebook or Twitter or e-mail, or are tempted to pick up the phone and attack, go to sleep.

I mean it.

Get a good night’s rest and re-evaluate things in the light of a brand new day. Have some quiet time. Join hands with your spouse or your kid or your dog and sing “Kumbaya” if you must. Do anything to re-center yourself so that God has the chance to speak to you. Notice how your anger has diminished. Notice how your perspective has shifted. Notice how your passion for writing a nasty note has been replaced by the urge to repair the relationship instead.

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