Cleave This Christmas

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 “I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need.

I don’t care about the presents, underneath the Christmas Tree.

I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know,

make my wish come true, oh all I want for Christmas is you.” -Mariah Carey

In Ephesians 5 the Bible says the relationship between a husband and a wife is a direct representation of the gospel relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church.  Recently my wife and I have asked, “what does Jesus desire for our marriage?”

In Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and Ephesians 5:31 the Bible uses the action word “cleave” as the verb for marriage.  What does it mean for couples to cleave?  The word cleave means to cling to, join closely or glue one thing to another, focusing on interfacing, reciprocal relations.  And how are they to cleave?  The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that we are made up of three parts, a spirit, a soul, and a body.  I believe in the marriage relationship we need to cleave spiritually (spirit), cleave relationally (soul), and cleave physically (body).

Cleaving to our spouse’s spirit may be the hardest hurdle.  We need to pray together daily and sit in church together regularly.  In a 1997 Gallup poll by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, less than 1% of couples that pray together daily experience divorce.  Cleaving to your spouse may look like praying out loud together once a day. And if it is hard for you and your spouse, you’re not alone, I’ve read that 92% of couples that call themselves Christians don’t pray together (FamilyLife Survey, USA)! The old adage is true, a couple that prays together stays together.  Ed Stetzer suggests also that couples who attend church together only have a 10-15% divorce rate.  For those of us in church leadership positions, it’s especially important we’re praying together with our spouse at home and being intentional to sit together in church regularly.  How are we doing cleaving spiritually?

Cleaving to our spouse’s soul, their mind and emotions, may be the first one we notice needs attention.  Spending time enjoying one another is important, and we can alternate doing one another’s favorite things.  Healthy communication is essential.  Carve out time every day to connect together relationally.  This can be asking, “How are you doing today?  Schedule a date once a week to sit across a table from one another and reconnect.  One lost art of soul cleaving in Scripture is to “bless them” verbally, exhort, or give a benediction.  The Bible says to encourage one another daily.  If you would like ideas to encourage your spouse, see www.choosemercy.org and search “Encourage Daily.”  Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate, and Satan the accuser.  In order to cleave to one another’s soul’s our communication needs to include blessing, encouraging, and yielding.  We will have a hard time cleaving to accusing, resentment, and contention.  Finally if one of you always has to be right or in control, cleaving to one another relationally will be especially hard.  This is why the Bible asks all of us in Ephesians 5:12 to Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  How are we doing cleaving relationally?

Cleaving to our spouse’s body only protects our marriage from Satan’s attacks.  1 Corinthians 7:5, says to married couples, “Do not deprive one another (physically), except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  That begs the question how long is a limited time?  In Exodus 19:15 Moses asked the people to obey God and consecrate themselves for three days with no marital relations.  In 1 Samuel 21:4-5 David asks the priest for bread for his men to eat and the priest says they can have the consecrated bread if they have kept themselves from women.  And David replies, “Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy.”  While three days may be a biblical suggestion, whatever you and your spouse agree is a “limited time,” please be intentional about cleaving together physically, holding hands, hugging, kissing, and pursuing intimacy.  How are we doing cleaving physically?

Some years ago when my wife and I were in a difficult time of unemployment, a dear mentor couple gave us great advice.  They told us that in the dark seasons of life when you have no money and you don’t know what God’s plan is, you can still cleave to one another.  It’s free.  And it’s biblical.  May we be intentional about obeying God’s call for married couples to cleave together.  Let’s Cleave this Christmas!

Wives, Encourage Your Husbands Daily -Heb 13:3

  1. Your desire to lead means a lot to me. -1 Ti 3:1 If a man desires the position of elder, he desires a good work.
  2. I really appreciate that you want to do the right thing. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be blameless
  3. You are such a loyal man -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be the husband of one wife
  4. I like how self controlled and kind you are. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be temperate
  5. You do a good job of being rational -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be sober minded
  6. I’m so glad I married a man with the fruit of the Spirit -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be a good behavior
  7. It means a lot that you help me have a home to have friends over. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be hospitable
  8. I think you’re really wise. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be able to teach
  9. I admire your discipline to get up every morning -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be given to much wine
  10. I like to be close to you when you’re gentle -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must be gentle
  11. I notice how well you get along with your friends. -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be quarrelsome
  12. Our marriage is the best when we’re content. -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be covetous
  13. You manage (this) well -1 Ti 3:4 An elder must manage his own house well
  14. Your love means so much to our kids -1 Ti 3:4 An elder must have his children in submission with all reverence
  15. You are a blessing to our church. -1 Ti 3:5 An elder must be able to take care of the church
  16. Its so cool that you’ve been a Christian for ___ years! -1 Ti 3:6 An elder must not be a novice
  17. Your humility brings God’s grace for our family. -1 Ti 3:6 An elder must not be puffed up with pride lest he fall
  18. Thank you for having a good testimony with your work friends. -1 Ti 3:7 An elder must have good testimony with outsiders
  19. I really respect how hard you try to overcome temptations. -1 Ti 3:7 An elder must overcome temptation
  20. Thank you for trying to understand -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must give understanding to their wives
  21. I have felt so special since the day you proposed. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must give honor to their wives
  22. I’m so thankful you know God’s grace for each of us. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands see wives as coequals in the grace of life
  23. Thank you for praying for me. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must be men of prayer
  24. I’m glad we are like minded about Christ. -1 Pe 3:8 be likeminded
  25. I’m blessed by your compassion -1 Pe 3:8 be compassionate
  26. Your love makes me feel special -1 Pe 3:8 be loving
  27. For such a strong man you are tenderhearted. -1 Pe 3:8 be tenderhearted
  28. I noticed how courteous you were. -1 Pe 3:8 be courteous
  29. Thank you for not being insulting or overpowering. -1 Pe 3:8 not reviling
  30. You are such a blessing to me. -1 Pe 3:8 blessing one another
  31. We are blessed because you are such a nice guy. -1 Pe 3:8 inherit a blessing

(see also Genesis 3, Proverbs 5, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 3)

Husbands, Encourage Your Wives Daily -Heb 13:3

  1. You have a powerful influence of moral excellence on the people around you –Pr 31:10 Virtuous (powerful influence of moral excellence)
  2. I hold you in high esteem, you are the most important person in my life –Pr 31:10 worth (held in high esteem)
  3. I trust you, you’re the most competent person I know –Pr 31:11 her husband trusts her
  4. You bring so much good into my days –Pr 31:12 you do me good all my days
  5. I appreciate how hard you work –Pr 31:13 work hard with hands
  6. I noticed how far out of your way you have to go to take care of all of us. –Pr 31:14 goes far to provide
  7. Thanks for getting up to care of us –Pr 31:15 rises early to provide for family and others
  8. I wish you didn’t have to make mony, but I’m impressed with how you do it. –Pr 31:16 earns private profits
  9. You are the strongest most steadfast woman I know –Pr 31:17 strength
  10. It makes me feel good when you perceive all is good, we’re going to be fine. –Pr 31:18 perceives all is good
  11. You strengthen me when I know hard times don’t destroy your confidence –Pr 31:18 lamp does not go out in darkness
  12. I love how you extend your hands to give to others –Pr 31:19 hold out her hands to give
  13. Your confidence is beautiful –Pr 31:21 confident
  14. I appreciate how fearless you are –Pr 31:21 not fear
  15. You look really nice today –Pr 31:22 well clothed
  16. I want to be the kind of man you respect and admire –Pr 31:23 respected husband
  17. You are so good at making ______________. –Pr 31:24 sells what she makes
  18. I just wanted to honor you by _______________. –Pr 31:25 strength and honor
  19. I love it when we rejoice together. –Pr 31:25 rejoicing
  20. I think you’re really wise and I appreciate your input. –Pr 31:26 wise
  21. I think you’re a really kind person. –Pr 31:26 kind
  22. Thank you for making our household run so smoothly. –Pr 31:27 watches over household
  23. I appreciate how hard you’re working –Pr 31:26 not idle
  24. You are leaving an incredible legacy. –Pr 31:28 children appreciate
  25. I believe in you and I’m excited about _________ (This part of our future) –Pr 31:28 husband affirms
  26. You are at the head of your class, there’s no one as gifted as you are. –Pr 31:29 excel in them all
  27. Your fear of the Lord is your most valuable quality. –Pr 31:30 fears the Lord
  28. You should praised for ____________. –Pr 31:30 to be praised
  29. I wish everyone knew how good you are at _____________. –Pr 31:31 show off your works
  30. Your gentle and quiet spirit is so beautiful –1 Pe 3:4
  31. Your love for the Lord inspires me to love Him more. -1 Pe 3:1

(see also Genesis 3, Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Peter 3)

David Strengthened Himself In The Lord

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As a pastor I spend most of my time in one of two areas.  I serve people suffering weakness, like hospitalizations or financial needs, and I spend time responding to conflicts like  broken marriages and church disagreements.  I was recently encouraged by Dr. Zack Eswine (The Imperfect Pastor) when he shared the story of how David responded to these things in 1 Samuel 30.

In previous chapters David had been fleeing King Saul who was trying to kill him and then he was rejected by the Philistine leaders in 1 Samuel 29 who didn’t approve of him.  In the beginning of chapter 30 David and his men were raided and all their wives and children were taken.  David’s men were so upset they wept till they had no more strength to weep, and then they talked of stoning David.  And the Bible says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.”  As we continue reading, some of David’s men were so overcome with grief they were too weak to go recapture their wives and children, so 200 of them stayed behind.  Upon reclaiming all the wives and children and plundering the Amalekites, the 400 who went resented the 200 who stayed back and refused to share the plunder with them.

And David, having strengthened himself in the Lord, was able to “manage well with all dignity” (1Ti3:4) and give grace to them all.  Those too weak to contribute were blessed alongside those who worked hard for it.  And those in conflict, who were filled with resentment, were blessed alongside those who had been overcome by love for their families.  May we strengthen ourselves in the Lord and bless those who are weak and those who are angry.

Be encouraged; God’s grace is for you.

Summer Vacation or Family Holiday?

Most of my favorite summer memories involve family vacations.  Camping at Silver Lake, swimming at the sand dunes, John and Diane Windle’s puppets at family camp, bike rides for donuts, the smell of suntan lotion, and M&M Peanuts.  When I was a boy, our family would share a half gallon of cookies and cream ice cream on the boat dock.  Dad would let us finish it all because there was no freezer to keep it!  Anybody for seconds?!

During a high school missions choir trip to England my sister Denise Lane and I made the nicest friends named the Hunter family.  They would come visit us in the US while on “holiday.”  Mr. Hunter was so tall he made my dad look like Barney Rubble, so we called the two of them Fred and Barney.  Watching them race in go carts was hilarious!  But we learned from the Hunters that what we call vacation, the British call “holiday.”

Recently I heard Pastor Stuart Briscoe talking about the need to take a break from time to time.  He challenged us to be intentional about how we spend this time away from our normal routine.  He shared the word “vacation” can mean to vacate or be vacant, to shut off and try to forget.  Maybe we try to live in a fantasy world only to crash back into reality.  “Holiday” on the other hand comes from our Christian heritage, taking time off to remember holy days.

In the Old Testament we see patterns of rest in the requirements of the Jewish Law.  God asked His people to observe seven breaks.  There were daily Selah breaks, a weekly Sabbath, a monthly New Moon day, three yearly week long Festivals, four other Feast days, the seven year Sabbaticals, and the 50th year of Jubilee.

But what grabbed my attention as Pastor Briscoe talked about these “Holy Days” in Scripture was what God asked them to do during these times.  They were to take a break from routine to be intentional about three things: Spiritual Transformation, Family Team Building, and Relaxation.  Or more simply put, a rest to pursue intimacy with God and intimacy with family.  The week-long festivals involved a pilgrimage.  And the Festival of Shelters was basically a camping trip to remember how they lived when God brought them through the wilderness.  A reminder that this earth was not their home, they were simply passing through, and God would provide everything they needed.

I hope you have at least a week of vacation or holy days this year (I think Scripture would recommend three!).  I hope you can leave your home and remember where God has brought you from.  I hope you can travel and be with your spouse and children and parents and siblings.  And I hope you can have time to rest and experience the love and peace and joy that overflows from our relationship with Jesus through His Holy Spirit within us.

Happy Summer Vacations! Or should we say, Happy Family Holidays!

Creating a Culture of Ministry Health

Dear Church Board and Chairperson,

Management Consultant Peter Drucker called church leadership “the most difficult and taxing role he knew.”1  LifeWay Research Vice President Scott McConnell said of pastors, “This is a brutal job, churches ought to be concerned.”2  100% of pastors surveyed by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development had a close associate or seminary friend who had left the ministry due to church conflict, stress related burnout, or a moral failure.3 

Until your church is large enough to hire an executive pastor, you as a board are the human resources department.  It is a huge responsibility to steward your employees, and stewarding the pastoral position has unique challenges.

If you want to create a culture of ministry health and growth, you need to intentionally identify and address the risks that could sabotage your goal. Below are 10 questions that reflect the challenges that you and your pastor face, as researched by Dr. Charles A. Wickman in Pastors at Risk (note chapter references in parentheses).

  1. How do we become unified with our pastor to clarify, communicate, and contend for God’s vision for our church? (Ch#4) “The primary stressor experienced by pastors, leading the most often to forced resignation, is vision conflict.” -Wickman/Spencer4
  2. How do we help our pastor by setting appropriate and manageable expectations of our pastor and clearly communicating them to him and our church? (Ch#7) “In a survey asking how exited pastors experienced stress in their ministry, role conflict was a top ranked producer of stress second only to conflict over how ministry was to be done in the church.” –Wickman5
  3. How are we helping our pastor train volunteers and delegate (administrate) responsibilities? (Ch#6)George Barna has discovered that while 69% of the pastors of effective churches have preaching/teaching as their primary gift emphasis, administration and leadership are found in only 15% of these pastors.” – John Hawco6
  4. How are we facilitating healthy communication in our church? (Ch#9) “Most church conflict results from poor communication.” -Rick Warren7
  5. How do we help our pastor manage the grief and loss he experiences regularly and create a culture of joy? (Ch#11) “Ministry is fraught with grief because of difficulty in relationships between sheep and shepherd, people and pastor.” -John A. MacArthur8
  6. How do we help our pastor manage stress related burnout and encourage him to have enough rest? (Ch#1-2) “75% of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry” -Fuller Institute9
  7. How do we help our pastor say no and handle the criticism that comes with it? (Ch#8) “All of the top at risk pastors said it was difficult for them to say no.” -Wickman10
  8. How do we help our pastor manage discouragement and encourage him to invest in self care? (Ch#3) “70% of pastors constantly fight depression.” -Fuller Institute11
  9. How do we support our pastor to pursue a healthy relationship with his wife? (Ch#10) “77% of pastors felt they did not have a good marriage.” -FASICLD 12
  10. How do we help our pastor manage isolation and encourage him to meet with pastors of other churches and denominations? (Ch#5) “Only a fellow minister can point out the width and depth of the rut in which a colleague may be running.” – Winton H. Beaven13

Thank you for investing in the health of your church by addressing the 10 Risks every church and its pastor face.  If you would like further resources or there’s any way we can support and strengthen your ministry, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Serving Jesus together,

jason@pirministries.org

1 Grudem, Elliot. “Pour It Out,” Leadership Journal, Winter 2016.

2 Green, Lisa Cannon. “The One Percent;” Christianity Today, September 1, 2015.

3,8,9,11,12 Krejcir, Dr. Richard J. “Statistics On Pastors,” http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562, 2007.

4,5,10, Wickman, Dr. Charles A. Pastors at Risk, 2014.

6 Hawco, John. “The Senior Pastor/Executive Pastor Team: A Contemporary Paradigm For The Larger Church Staff,” Dissertation, https://www.xpastor.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/hawco_john.pdf, 2005.

7 Warren, Rick. “Develop These 7 Skills When You Want People to Listen,” http://pastors.com/develop-these-7-skills-when-you-want-people-to-listen/, October 2, 2015.

8 MacArthur, John A. “Restoring the Grieving Pastor’s Joy,” https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/47-48/restoring-the-grieving-pastors-joy-part-1, September 24, 1995.

13 Beaven, Winton H. “Ministerial Burnout-Cause and Prevention,” https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1986/03/ministerial-burnout-cause-and-prevention, March 1986.

Pastor, Are You At Risk?

In 2012 my 10 year plan was completely derailed as I found myself exiting a pastoral position I loved.  In the wake of this painful transition I was introduced to the Pastor In Residence ministry to pastor’s and their wives.  Their at risk survey would have been a huge benefit to me on the front end had I known about it.

If you or those around you are feeling that something isn’t right about your present pastoral situation, please take this free survey created through years of research by Dr. Charles A. Wickman regarding the risks pastors face.

At-Risk Pastor Survey

May God richly bless you and your family.  Thank you for serving His church.