Like Balm for the Soul

In the book “Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans, Terry Slachter and Joel Beeke’s words are like balm for the pastor’s soul. It is amazing how we sometimes feel like we are the only ones facing ministry problems. The Puritans have been there and they offer wise words for us who do ministry in the 21st century.

Continue reading Like Balm for the Soul

Pastors and the After-Sermon Comments

Wise words from Thabiti Anyabwile:

Perhaps the most perilous moments in a preacher’s life are those 20 minutes spent after the service greeting the people as they leave. Smiles are exchanged, hands are shaken, prayer requests are given, jokes are told, and feedback is delivered. How the preacher handles the feedback determines a great deal. Critical feedback can crush. Positive feedback can puff up. Everything from despondency to pride grows right there at the church door. Our people mean well. Their encouragements are meant to help. Even discouraging comments, when viewed properly, are often meant to strengthen. We must learn from it all and keep serving in love.

But the one thing we must not do is trust after-sermon comments as a final measure of how faithful or effective our preaching is. We don’t (or shouldn’t!) preach for an “Amen.” We don’t (or shouldn’t!) preach in the fear of man. We don’t (or shouldn’t!) begin to think those few comments (and they are few) represent the entirety of the church or the entirety of God’s work. The Master works his plan well beyond the sight of men. So we shouldn’t finally trust the comments of our people, or even our own assessments.

Malachi on Modern Preachers

Malachi’s words for Old Testament priests could very well be a warning for modern preachers who talk more about pop psychology and prosperity gospel more than the Word of God:

“For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the LORD of Hosts.

You, on the other hand, have turned from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have violated the covenant of Levi,” says the LORD of Hosts. “So I in turn have made you despised and humiliated before all the people because you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in your instruction.” (Malachi 2:7-9)

Fire in the Bones

Charles Spurgeon on preaching the gospel:

If a man be truly called of God to the ministry, I will defy him to withhold himself from it. A man who has really within him the inspiration of the Holy Ghost calling him to preach cannot help it. He must preach. As fire within the bones, so will that influence be until it blazes forth. Friends may check him, foes criticise him, despisers sneer at him, the man is indomitable; he must preach if he has the call of heaven. All earth might forsake him; but he would preach to the barren mountain-tops. If he has the call of heaven, if he has no congregation, he would preach to the rippling waterfalls, and let the brooks hear his voice. He could not be silent.

Charles H. Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit (Spurgeon Sermon Collection; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2004), n.p.

Trailing (Far) Behind the Running Pastor

Tuesday this week was pretty intense for me. Without much planning and practice, I decided to run with the Running Pastor, Ferdie Cabiling, on his Run Across the Philippines ultra marathon. Pastor Ferdie entered Leyte Province few days ago. He gradually made his way from the southernmost tip of the island up to the northernmost part of the province, the scenic San Juanico Bridge connecting Leyte and Samar provinces.

By now, many of you know that Pastor Ferdie is running to raise funds for the 250 scholars of the Real Life Foundation.

My purpose for running was a combination of good and silly. First, I wanted to support his endeavor to raise funds for Real Life scholars in my own little way, especially that he was passing by the very city where I work and the province where I was born. Second, I just wanted to run with a big guy in this fraternity of runners. I have never joined even half a marathon before. The longest run I had was only 16 kilometers. I wanted this to be my baptism.

My Half Marathon Baptism

So by midnight of Tuesday, I grabbed my worn out, probably fake ASICS shoes, gathered my running stuff which consisted of a gadget loaded with RunKeeper app, a pair of earphones, and my favorite armband to hold the gadget in my left arm. I was all set.

I joined the run with two friends from church, Anna and Ritchel. A group of older guys from Tacloban also joined us, making the total number of runners 9. At first the pacing was slow so I figured I might even finish the entire 50 kilometers. At kilometer 8, I wasn’t very optimistic. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t keep up with the rest of the runners. At kilometer 12, I sheepishly called the ambulance behind me and told the guys I needed rescuing to rest my feet. I hitched a ride for a few kilometers and got back to the race when we were able to catch up with the others. At kilometer 17, I just wanted to go home and forget the whole thing. I was thinking the Lord didn’t need my help to miraculously provide for our Real Life scholars.

But I knew I had to keep running. I tried to imagine my reasons for doing so. I recalled Ms Pinky Katipunan’s Facebook post about how she teared up a bit when she saw Real Life scholars at her 45km mark and how she was motivated by the idea that she was doing it for others. In my heart of hearts, I couldn’t feel the same altruism. Sure it may have been at the back of my mind but right at the moment, it was the pain in my legs that occupied most of my attention. Then I thought how embarrassing it would be if I didn’t complete my own goals, even if I never told anyone about them.

So with my feet getting heavier by the minute and with nerve pains shooting up my leg every time I moved, I trudged on like crazy. I brisk-walked while they ran, meandered like drunk while the other runners seemed to be dancing, and groaned in pain while the older guys were skipping forward like they were just playing in the park.

I finished 21 kilometers with thud on the seat of the ambulance that was just behind me the whole time. Let the muscle pains come now, I don’t care. In the mean time, I felt good that I was able to do what I set out to do.

“Where Does He Get His Motivation?”

For the remainder of the day, my mind kept of going back to the scenes of our morning run. How could a 50-year old have energy for this? My body was holding a severe protest against me when I did my 21 kilometers. Granted, I am not a professional runner. But Pastor Ferdie has been running for 15 days and has covered more than 700 kilometers when I joined him. He endured rain showers, cold mornings, and sweltering heat from Saranggani to Leyte and still he was going strong. Anyone who has traveled long distances by bus knows the weirdness of seeing towns and provinces pass by your window. Hold that picture in slow motion and instead of riding a bus, imagine you do it on foot. It is both beautiful and staggering. When we passed by the towns I only see on the window of a bus, I felt a combined sense of exhilaration and tiredness for Pastor Ferdie knowing that whereas my run would end in Tacloban, his run would go on to Aparri. I have never been to Aparri either by bus or by plane. To think that he is going there on foot is beyond me. How does anyone motivate himself for an endeavor like that?

About a week ago, Philstar columnist Cito Beltran wrote an opinion piece about the Running Pastor where he mentioned that there are times when Pastor Ferdie actually runs alone. When all the runners were well ahead of me and all I could see was the forlorn road without houses nearby, I realized Cito Beltran’s point was painfully true. In the little that I know of running, I realized that completing a long distance run is both physically and emotionally taxing. Your enemy is not just the blisters on your feet and the unpredictable changing of the weather but also the staggering thought that you are actually alone in a project you volunteered to do and that you still have a long way to complete it. Only a strong man with very good reasons would dare embark on such a demanding project.

Encouraging Battle-Worn Local Pastors

We arranged for Pastor Ferdie to meet with the local pastors of Tacloban after his Tuesday run. There he poured out torrents of encouragements to our battle-worn local pastors who have been ministering in the city since Yolanda. I sat at the back of the room listening and laughing my heart out at the appropriate places of his talk while deep inside me I was just so amazed at the amount of grace God poured out in the room. Aside from the energy Pastor Ferdie unleashes on the road everyday, he still had so much fire power to share to the pastors. Then it hit me. This love for God and love for God’s people are the springs in his steps. He will finish the run to Aparri because he is motivated by something beyond himself.

I am writing this blog because of the deep respect I have for the Running Pastor. I am amazed at the selfless love and great self-sacrifice he is doing for the scholars of Real Life Foundation. It is one thing to admire what he is doing from a distance by just liking and commenting on his Facebook posts. It is another thing to see him sweaty and exhausted on the road. There you will see that his love and compassion for the next generation is expressed in the currency of sweat, muscle pains, and hundreds of kilometers of tired footsteps.

If you are reading this, it is probably because you know Pastor Ferdie, you attend a Victory church, or you are a running enthusiast. If you are reading this, I commend him to you. #RunAcrossThePH is a run fueled by his love for the Lord, love for the next generation, and love for those who can’t run.

You can encourage him by doing any or all of the following:

  1. Pray for him everyday as he is making his way through Samar and Bicol region in the next few days. Unlike other areas, there are places in Samar where stores and houses are far between. Just this morning, we had to go very far to find pandesal.
  2. Consider giving to Real Life Foundation. Pastor Ferdie hopes to raise P1,000 for every kilometer he covers in the whole duration of his run. Let us make that happen.
  3. Dust off your running gears and run for a few kilometers with him if you are in the area.

Thanks for reading everyone!

 

Trying to Get the Rocks to Talk

When God called Moses up the mountain to give him the Law, the Israelites were so afraid of the holiness of God that they asked Him not to talk to them directly again. God heard their prayers.

Now the entire non-human world is silent. We told God, like we tell a child who is annoying us, to shut up and go to his room. He heard our prayer. After these many centuries, we are bored and fitful with the unrelieved pattern of human speech. Even our scientists, who earlier seemed to be the most determined of all to confine speech to the human, are trying to teach chimpanzees to talk, decipher the language of whales, and listen for messages from some distant star (Peterson, 1993).

Continue reading Trying to Get the Rocks to Talk

Jared C. Wilson on Young Pastors

From The Pastor’s Justification:

Young men, be teachable. You do not know everything. And your theology and your position are never licenses for authoritarianism. If you don’t want others to look down on your youth, don’t look down on their age.

At conferences and other speaking engagements I often meet young men in the ministry who say things like, “I’m in a church where the gospel isn’t important.” They are looking for advice. “How do I,” they want to know, “as an assistant or intern, influence my pastor or elder board toward more faithful gospel-centrality?” The first steps are these: be submissive, be humble, be subject to your elders, and listen more than you talk. Your pastor may not be as gospel-centered as you’d like, but if he is a Christian who’s been pastoring for a while, he still possesses a wisdom that will benefit you greatly. Continue reading Jared C. Wilson on Young Pastors

Stay for the Long Haul

Paul Lamey:

Some pastors flight around from one church to another, never settling anywhere for long. They are like migratory birds; they change locations with the seasons. These pastors tend to treat ministry like a sprint (or a stepping stone) and not the marathon it is.

Pastor, as far as it depends on you, stay at your church for the long term. Don’t give up. Be patient, loving, and faithful to the Word. If possible, stay at your church until the Lord plucks you to be with Him in eternity. In the end, this will be best for you and your congregation.

On Personal Devotions and Sermon Preparation

John MacArthur:

Study to know God, not just to make sermons. The key to avoiding debilitating weariness in ministry is personal spiritual renewal. If your heart first and then your preaching is passionately alive to spiritual things, then you can expect your congregation to be passionately alive to spiritual things.  Such passion, of course, must come first and foremost through your concentrated study of the Word of God. And here’s the key: Don’t study to prepare sermons; study to know the truth, to rejoice in the glory and grace of God, and to be conformed to His will. Sermons should never be the primary goal of your Bible study; they should only be the overflow of it. When you study, seek an accurate understanding of who God is and what He expects—first and foremost, this is for your own devotion and holiness. And then, from the abundance, instruct your people, urging them to follow you as you follow the Truth, written and Incarnate.

Of Heartbreaks and Holiness

He came to the office with a different look on his face, a 19-year old discipleship group leader who hasn’t been in church for months. I knew why he kept his distance. His brother told me.

“We ended our relationship last Monday,” he said, a pained smile painted on his face. “It wasn’t right, we’re just kids, I’d like to pursue God and a life of holiness. She wants that too. There was no other way. But I just feel so terrible, like I dragged her into something wrong.” Continue reading Of Heartbreaks and Holiness

Eugene Peterson on Busy Pastors

From Peterson’s book The Contemplative Pastor:

The word busy is a symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.

I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble. Continue reading Eugene Peterson on Busy Pastors