Cast Your Net…A devotional

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“Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6)

Cast your net on the right side!

The disciples had struggled all night and caught nothing.

Suddenly a voice cried out to them, “throw the nets on the right side”. When they did…they were unable to haul in the catch.

The disciples were given a visual reminder.

They should never forget that on the right side of the boat is where the fish are….

And…where is the “right side” in life?

The right side is where Jesus is!

The right side is where the Creator and Sustainer of all is located. The right side is where you and I find the hope of the world. The right side is the place of grace.

Are you casting the net of your life on the right side of the boat?

If you’re having a though time right now with life…could it be your casting your net on the wrong side of the boat?

Throw your net on the right side today!

Choose Jesus! Choose His way. Choose to obey.

The Biggest Mistake of My Life

hiding mistakes

One of our boys has always been such a deep thinker. When he was 3 years old, watching a movie with him was a chore, because he would analyze every aspect of the plot. We would try to explain to him it was only a cartoon, without a ton of hidden meaning, but it was never enough. Even today he’s the analyzer of life. He asks the deep questions.

Personally, he takes after me (although he’s more fluent at it than I am). I’m a questioner too…and believe it’s been a help to me in life, ministry and leadership. The best questions get the best answers.

So it was not surprising when one day, when he was an early teenager, seemingly out of nowhere, Nate asked, Daddy, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life?”

I didn’t have to think long. We had owned a very successful, fast-growing business. We stood to make lots of money in the years ahead, and we sold that business to buy another. It was devastating. If it could go wrong it did. Although it’s a very long story and we felt we were doing the right thing at the time, it proved to be a very painful five year experience until we sold the business, basically walking away with nothing.

I told Nate (we call him Nathaniel) that selling one successful business and buying that business was obviously the biggest mistake of my life.

Nate countered quickly, “Yea, but you’ve said you probably would have never surrendered to ministry had that experience not occurred.

You’re right,” I replied. “I was too busy chasing a dream. God worked it for good. But, that was definitely my biggest mistake in life.”

As I said, I’m an analyzer too, so several days later, while I was in a time of prayer, Nate’s question came to my mind. I decided to ask God about it. In my prayer, I said, “God, why did you allow me to make the biggest decision of my life? I would have followed you if you had made it clear. Why couldn’t you let me do it another way? That was such a difficult time in our life.” (It was one of those rare pity parties I had with God. Don’t be afraid to have them. He understands.)

God seemed to interrupt me before I could continue. Now please understand, I have never heard God audibly. And, I’d love to say He speaks to me everyday. But, there have been a few times where I am certain I heard the impression of God on my heart…where I know God “spoke” clearly to me. This was one of those times. (As a side note, they always line up with truth from God’s word.)

I sensed God say, “Ron (I’m so glad He knows my name), your biggest mistake was not buying that business.”

I was surprised. I figured it must not be God to hear such a reply. So, I snapped back, almost as if I was sarcastically speaking to my own false thoughts, “Oh really, well then what was the biggest mistake of my life? Because I can’t think of one bigger.”

God interrupted again…

“Ron, your biggest mistake was following your will for your life and not mine.”

And, God was silent. Point made. Point accepted. I had no more questions.

The truth is many had seen what God was doing in my life; including my wife, but I had ignored them…continually replying that we are all “called to ministry”…and I resisted the surrender to vocational ministry for many years.

God’s counsel that morning has proven true so many times, as I reflect back over my life and the decisions I have made. The greatest failure in my life has always seem to be a result of when I do what I want to do rather than what God wants me to do.

Here’s hoping someone learns from my mistakes.

6 Thoughts for the Pastor’s Wife

Ron.Cheryl

This is another guest post from my wife Cheryl. She’s amazing. (Except she only did six :) )

Here are 6 Suggestions for the Pastor’s Wife:

You aren’t the pastor…don’t try to be

Ever had a church member complain to you about the lack of parking? The worship center is too cold or too hot? The choir never sings their favorite song? Not enough doughnuts (which are actually donated by a church member)? Or, that the sermon should have been about…? And the fact is…if it is something within my control…I’ll do whatever possible to help solve the issue or find someone who can. The problem for me is even when the situation is out of my control I carry the burden…I won’t let it go…it bothers me…continually. I don’t like conflict and want everybody to be happy…all the time!!

I’ve had to realize that there are always some complaints…some issues…that are not within my control and I don’t need to carry the burden as if they are. In our situation…my husband has been called by God and our church congregation to be the pastor…the one ultimately accountable for issues at church. Don’t misunderstand, I believe we equally accepted the calling, but my greatest role in the church is to support my husband…who just happens to also be my pastor.

Find your place…be visible in the church

A friend, whose husband is also a senior pastor, recently shared with me that even though they had been in their current church several years…most of the congregation did not even know who she was. She doesn’t feel a part of the church or even want to be there most Sundays. How sad…not only for my friend and their current church, but equally sad for her husband. God not only calls our spouse…He also calls us. And I fully believe that it is not God’s will for a couple to be pulled different directions. His will is to create unity…oneness…in a marriage. All that to say, I think it is very important for me to be visible…as a supporter of my spouse’s ministry and as his biggest fan. I need to play an active role…fulfilling my God given passion…serving in God’s church. If your marriage is as it should be…the calling is for both of you. You would want to be doing life together. My encouragement is not to live by other people’s expectations, but find your place and learn to love the church. Ask God to give you a heart for the people equal to your husband’s. You’ll also better balance each other better on the good and bad days of ministry that way. (I wrote previously that the role you play should be unique to you.)

Protect your family…above all

Protecting our family is equally important for both spouses. Our children are watching and learning as we model how to handle issues within the church. Being on staff can be difficult at times as you are often exposed more to people’s issues and problems. There are things to share with your family and then there are times for the protection of the other family…or even your own…that it is best not to share. Every family has struggles…and there will be opportunities for you to use situations as teaching moments…but not if it was shared in confidence or will put your family member in an uncomfortable situation.

Be his biggest supporter…his safe haven

Without a doubt, this is one of our most important roles as a pastor’s spouse. At the end of the sermon…or end of the day…our spouse needs to know we are their number one supporter! This is whether it was a good day at church…or a not so good one…whether the church is meeting budget…or attendance is up or down. Our spouse needs to know that home is a safe haven. A place of rest…not to be lazy…but a place to no longer feel the weight of the church…and be loved & respected for their most important role as a husband and father.

Let your hair down…you need friends…yet have to be careful

We need to be careful as pastors’ wives not to build walls of protection around our lives and families’ lives that we don’t allow any one into our lives. No matter your spouse’s occupation…we all need friends. Yet, because our husbands are in the ministry we are often exposed to issues and challenges the church or another person may be facing. We need friends that can be our friends because of who we are as a person…not as an inside source of information. And honestly, I have learned the hard way to be careful who I can “let my hair down” with and who is just pumping me for information. A rule I have tried to strive for is to surround myself with friends who 1) Encourage my relationship with Jesus Christ, 2) Encourage my relationship with my husband and family, 3) Are not afraid to speak TRUTH in love and 4) Enjoy having fun and laughing as much as I do! I need friends like that. We all do.

Continue to grow spiritually…protect your walk

This is the number one most important thing we can do as a pastor’s wife and more importantly, as a follower of Jesus Christ. I NEED to strive daily to grow in my spiritual walk with Christ. It is so easy to get caught up supporting our spouse, raising our family, working inside or outside the home, or even “doing church” business, that we neglect to protect our own walk with Christ. I can’t support my spouse…my family…or our church if I am not striving to grow closer to Christ. A good friend once shared with me that “BUSY” stands for “bound under satan’s yoke”. The enemy wants nothing more than for me to be too busy to do that which is most important. Isn’t that what Jesus shared with Martha? And no one is accountable for my Christian walk but ME! Not even my pastor who just happens to be my spouse!

Those are just a few thoughts on being a pastor’s wife. Any you have to add?

(And, this note at my husband’s request, please be kind in your comments. The last couple of guest posts are simply my opinions, but have triggered a couple of unkind remarks. And, as I said, I don’t like conflict. Plus, I guess that could be number 7…be nice. :) )

7 “Must Do’s” for Long-Term Leadership Success

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If you want to last in leadership long term and you want to genuinely make am impact that outlasts your leadership, you will have to be intentional. It isn’t hard…okay actually it is hard…but it can be much easier if you are purposeful in your approach.

Here are 7 suggestions for long term leadership success:

Abiding – Sit with God regularly to talk and listen. Do more listening than talking. Learn to take your relationship with Christ into every aspect of your life, not just into your quiet time.

Health – Get sufficient rest. Exercise. As my muscles stretch, so does the mind. Be reasonable in what you eat and drink. You only have one body and you want it to last for the duration.

Friendship – Be accountable. Allow a few people the freedom to speak into your life. Have some relationships that are beyond surface level. Live a transparent life.

Learning – Do it continually. Read. Sit with other leaders. Attend conferences. Continue your education. Learn something new everyday.

Sharing – Spread the load. Learn to be a friend and an expert at delegation.

Investing – Spend energy on the next realm of leadership.

Celebrating – Learn to enjoy the smallest moments of life.

What would you add?

A Word to the Pastor’s Wife…From My Wife

Cheryl

A Word to the Pastor’s Wife…From My Wife:

I love being a pastor’s wife. It truly is whom God has called me to be in this season of life. Everyday is not easy, but when I’m serving as God intended for me to serve, I’m never more fulfilled in life.

That’s why I decided to share this advice to pastor’s wives. (I understand my husband has lots of pastors who read his blog. I hope they will share this with their spouse.)

Here is my advice:

Don’t try to be something you are not…and…Don’t be afraid to be yourself

So often we have a picture in our head of what a pastor’s wife is “suppose” to look like. I did before I was one. Of course, she plays the piano and/or sings in the choir…she bakes the most wonderful desserts…and she is active in every ministry the church and community have to offer…she can quote scripture in every sentence…her marriage is always perfect…and…oh yeah…she is the mother of 2.5 PERFECT children. And the sad thing is…often we (as pastor’s wives) beat ourselves up if we don’t meet all or at least several of these (self-imposed) expectations.

I’m not sure if it is because Ron and I surrendered to the full time vocational ministry later in life, but I soon realized if these were the expectations then I was in big trouble. People closest to me have never suggested I join the choir…I played a bassoon in high school which very few churches have a use for these days…I don’t cook (blessed to be married to a wonderful husband who does!)…I have typically worked full time outside the home…and I still have to use the table of contents in the Bible occasionally (That’s the result of coming to Christ as an adult. Praise God for children’s church.) Yet, God still called “me” to be a pastor’s wife! (And, I’m still wondering why some days.) BUT, I do have to say I do have 2 pretty amazing sons! Nearly perfect as they appear to me. (Can I count my amazing Yorkiepoo puppy as the .5??)

At first, when we were church planters, I wore many hats as a greeter, preschool teacher, baby rocker and clean up crew…just to name a few. Thankfully as the church grew, I was able to invest my time in the areas I was most passionate about…such as greeting and welcoming…and attending services to support my husband. (He says he preaches better when I’m in the room :) ) No matter the church we serve in, my heart’s desire is to interact with as many people as possible to help all feel welcome. And I love hugs…both giving and receiving! Oh yeah…and I love to hear my man preach…even as many as 3 times on a Sunday!

God gives different gifts to different people and I needed to remind myself of God’s truth…that I need to be the person God called “me” to be! It is not always easy saying no to all the church expects me to be, but I have learned that by saying “yes” to what God is calling me to do and…not being afraid to say “no” to other things…allows me the freedom to follow my passions. It also allows God to use others to fill roles they should be doing…that they do better than me. Finally, it allows me to be the best supporter I can be for my husband. (Again, I don’t understand it, but he claims he’s a better pastor because of me. BTW, he asked me to put this line in here.)

Remember…don’t try to be someone you’re not…be the person God has called you to be!!

God’s Word says HIS yoke is easy…don’t let the world convince you otherwise!

Don’t Look Back! Lessons from Lot’s Wife

Remember Lot’s wife! Luke 17:32 NIV

Remember Lot’s wife?

Lot’s wife looked back. She took her eyes off the path of the Lord. She looked back to the world instead of forward to God’s plan for her life.

Prior to God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleaded with Him on the people’s behalf. Abraham bargained with God until it was clear there was no one righteous.

In God’s mercy, He allowed Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family to escape, but He gave strict instruction to them not to look back. Lot’s wife, consumed perhaps with the sin in the city she was leaving behind, looked back and was instantly turned into a pillar of salt.

Jesus told us to remember Lot’s wife.

When we look back, when we fail to see Jesus. We are taken from the blessings and protection that comes from following God exclusively and left to our own defense. Our independence causes us to miss the mercy of God.

Have you been drifting from the truths you know? Have you been wandering in your faith? Have you been neglecting your obedience to God? Have you taken your eyes off Christ?

Remember Lot’s wife today!

When They Talk About Your Husband

Ron.Cheryl

This is a guest post by my wife Cheryl. She’s an amazing pastor’s wife. Every church where I’ve been pastor has loved her…probably more than me. They line up on Sunday to give her a hug. By popular request, she’s written a few guest posts for me (and other pastors and pastor wives.) I’ll share some of them in the coming weeks.

When They Talk About Your Husband

I am frequently asked by other pastor’s wives how I respond when people talk bad about my husband…either to me or to others who repeat it to me. (And they do.) I’ll have to admit…this issue is a tough one for me.

No matter what I was taught growing up-sticks and stones may break your bones but words WILL hurt your heart.

And let’s face it-some people are just mean…even IN the church.

This has been one of the hardest things for me to deal with as a pastor’s wife. It became even more evident when we surrendered to full time vocational ministry and became church planters. Our biggest critics and spreaders of untruthful things were people within the church. My husband has to remind me often that these people aren’t the “church”…the church is the body of Christ…He wouldn’t hurt my husband that way…they are just people doing a poor job portraying the church. It is still hard at times for me to understand…after all…aren’t all Christians…those who profess Jesus Christ as our Saviour…on the same team with the same end goal?

But, it happens in the established church too. I know when people are complaining about changes the church is proposing that many times they are ultimately complaining about him…my husband. My best friend. And, it seems so many times they misunderstand his intentions, they don’t know his true heart, and they say things out of their own personal bias, that have little or nothing to do with Biblical truth. (Wow! That was hard to admit…but so true.)

As hard as it is…when others speak negatively about my spouse…even to me…which I’ve never really understood…I have to step back…take a deep breath…maybe two…and remind myself of TRUTH. Every one has an opinion…I don’t have to agree with it or even like it…but it is “their” opinion. My first instinct is to lash out and defend my spouse…and I think there are times when we need to speak truth if the person is willing to hear it…but more often than not I think we are called to realize we live in an often sad world…where it is sometimes easier to be critical of others than consider what might be the motivation in our own heart.

I’ve learned the hard way, I can either focus on the negative and hurtful things said OR I can take the high road and as difficult as it may be at times…choose to forgive and release this person (s) to God. Choosing unforgiveness has a greater hold on me and honestly I’d rather spend my energy elsewhere. I’m not saying it is always easy…I’m just saying I’ve learned the hard way that I am only accountable for “me” and how “I” respond.

Romans 12:18

When it doesn’t make sense…

complaint

People complain.

We went to a restaurant in a major city recently. The only parking available was valet parking. The funny thing was that we drove to the parking lot where we would be valeted. We parked our car, got out of the car, handed the keys to the valet, and watched him drive it about ten feet into a parking space. Then we paid for parking and (felt obligated to) tip the valet.

It didn’t make sense. We didn’t complain out loud. (I’m a pastor, you know.) But, we did complain to each other. And, we heard others complaining.

Sure, the restaurant is good enough and is in a location where they are always busy and can “get away” with it, but it still was frustrating to out of town visitors.

It was a reminder to me in leadership. As much as you can:

  • Eliminate confusion
  • Share the vision
  • Give details
  • Allow questions
  • Answer questions
  • Don’t assume people know
  • Keep it simple and understandable

All that said, that doesn’t meant there won’t be times when you’ve done the best you can to explain and it still makes no sense to people. Leaders have to take people to unknown places at times. But, as best as we can, we need to bring people along to better understandings of the why behind what we are doing.

Because…

When it doesn’t make sense…people complain.

How to Stop Being a People Pleasing Pastor or Leader

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I received this email after a recent post:

Ron,

Have just finished your blog post “7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership“. I recognize I am a People Pleaser Pastor. How do I turn the tide on this? How do I stop? I am seeing tension mounting on the team. There is frustration on our staff and it is even spilling over to our spouses, and my vision has hit a brick wall. I really want to move away from this but I am finding it most difficult.

Signed,

One frustrated pastor

Here is my reply:

Frustrated Pastor,

I’m impressed with your boldness and honesty.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

Get firm again on the vision you are trying to accomplish – It appears you have one, but people pleasing must be more important to you than accomplishing that vision. Not trying to sound harsh, but that’s the reality. We tend to do what we value most. You must begin to value the vision more than making people happy. Make sure it’s God-honoring and God-ordained. When you are leading a church, obviously you want to do the will of God. He gives us latitude I believe, but we want to make sure whatever we do honors Him and gives Him glory.

That vision, though, is what should hold your feet to the fire. If it detracts or doesn’t line up with the vision God has given you, you shouldn’t be as enthusiastic about it…regardless of who brings it to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to other things, but you can clearly say…”I’m sorry, but right now I’m chasing this vision God has given me.” Imagine the pressure Moses was under as a leader to please the people, but he had to hold to the vision God had given him and not cave to the pressure to always please people.

Get buy in with a team towards reaching the vision – You need a team around you committed to the same defined vision you have. Be careful who you surround yourself with here. Make sure they are people who are not self-serving, can see a bigger picture, and will protect your back should it come to that. You’ll need others, however, that can back you up when you’re tempted to give in and be a people pleaser.

When you recruit them, make sure they understand the vision and are committed to seeing it to completion. Be honest with your propensity to cave to pressure from others. Share with them your desire to complete the vision and given them permission to speak into your life when they see you pleasing people more than accomplishing the vision.

Assign responsibility and timelines – Give people real responsibility towards accomplishing the vision and measurable timelines toward achievement. This is hard for some pastors, but you have to release responsibility for decisions made. This process is vital, because it keeps tasks moving forward and therefore makes it easier and more palatable when you have to say no to other things. It’s hard to argue with success.

I often find it’s sometimes easier for someone closer to a task to say no to something new. For example, if a group wants us to start a new mission somewhere outside our focus area, the people who currently lead our mission efforts are often better at protecting the vision we’ve already set in place than I am. If I let those who lead in a specific area of ministry help make the decisions in their area, we will protect the vision more often.

Allow these same people to hold you accountable to sticking to these determined goals and objectives. You will be less likely to cave to people pressure if you know things are on track to reach the vision. I give people on my team the right to tell me when I’m veering from the vision we have before us.

Discipline yourself – The reality is that if you recognize people pleasing is a weakness in your leadership, you’ll have to discipline yourself away from it. This will take time. It probably has been a weakness for a while now, so don’t expect it to disappear immediately. When you sense you are making a decision purely to please others, give yourself a gut check. Put it in your schema. Tie a string around your finger if needed, but by practice and consistency, recall the bigger picture.

When needed, call in the trusted advisors again. Renew the passion for the vision again. Slowly, over time, you’ll find yourself better able to say no when needed so you can better realize the vision God has placed on your heart.

Those are my initial suggestions. I’m praying for you frustrated pastor, but I’m believing that you can do it. God has called you to it. He will equip you accordingly as you surrender to His will.

Ron

Ever been a people pleaser? What suggestions do you have?