Confessions of a Pastor

Sometimes I Find Myself Being A People Pleaser

One of the things I hear, from many people, is, “I will do what I want, I don’t care what other people think.” This is something I have said at times also. The older I get, the more I realize I do care what people think.

I am a recovering people pleaser. Is that okay with you?

There are times I cannot stand it when people get mad at me. I feel like I have to fix the situation right away by apologizing and talking with the person. The feeling amplifies when it happens to be a group of people I inadvertently offended somehow.

I do not like it when people are mad at me.

I do not like it when I accidentally hurt people’s feelings. This is one of those times I begin to feel low. I feel like scum because I hurt the feelings of someone I care about.

The list can go on and on.

I also enjoy it when people like me. Not because I am recognized for good work; but because I am liked as a person. This brings happiness and a feeling I have people around I can spend time with and they would enjoy spending time with me.

Does any of this sound familiar to anyone else? How many of you feel this way?

I know I am not the only person who goes through these pursuits of people pleasing. This is not how I operate all the time either. But recognizing and proclaiming this reality is important, for me and for you.

Here’s the thing. If we are doing the work that God has called us to do, not everyone is going to like us. There are some people who will completely reject and despise us because we are doing work for the Kingdom of Heaven.

In Galatians 1:10 (ESV), the Apostle Paul writes, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be servant of Christ.”

The questions I have to ask, and answer, each day is, “Who am I really working for? What are the reasons I do what I do?” You have to answer these also. The quality of our work will actually depend on how we answer these questions. Why?

If we are working to please man, there is a big chance we will cut corners and manipulate the work we do to make us look better so others will like us. This really is not our best work because it is really not focused on the work, but rather on what other people think of the work…of you and me.

Colossians 3:23 (ESV) says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

Doing the work for God means we are doing work for a much higher purpose than us, or our personal agendas. Doing work for God means we are going to do the right thing, all the time, in a loving way, so the Kingdom can be expanded.

When we are doing the work for God, and give all glory to God, then we are going to make sure all the “I’s” are dotted and all the “T’s” are crossed. In other words, we are going to make sure the work is the best quality work possible.

Yes, I do like it when people like me. It really makes my job a lot easier. But, the reality is, I do my best to focus on what is best for the Kingdom work in my life, church, community, and ultimately, the world.

My prayer each and every day is simply, “God, you be glorified. Jesus be known and shown. Holy Spirit guide me and strengthen me.”

Boasting About Christ

This is the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I’m going to take tomorrow off and then start writing again on Sunday to begin going through Ephesians in the month of February.

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Galatians 6:14-18 14 But as for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through him, and I have been crucified to the world. 15 Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t mean anything. What matters is a new creation. 16 May peace and mercy be on whoever follows this rule and on God’s Israel. 17 From now on, no one should bother me because I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. 18 Brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. 

So this month has been challenging for me, and has also been encouraging at the same time. As I have read through the entire letter this month everyday, I have discovered many things about myself and have seen grace in the midst of Paul’s writing and in daily life more clearly. Reading the entire letter each day and focusing on a small portion to reflect on during the day has been fun and I look forward to continuing this.

We do have freedom in Christ and we can choose to live in that freedom daily or we can choose to go our own path and find that we actually become slaves to circumstances or even superstitions along the way. But we also have to be careful that we do not allow this freedom we have to go to our head; but instead allow it to control our actions.

There is so much we have to boast about in our life; but it all really boils down to one word: CHRIST. If there is anything we can brag about it is Christ. We cannot really brag about God’s grace because we haven’t done anything to earn it. We can’t brag about the life we have because God is the source of our life and the giver of our talents and gifts.

Here’s a challenge for all of us that we can do starting today: “Give thanks in ALL circumstances.” When is the last time thanks was given for the challenges and frustrations in your life? When was the last time thanks was given for the opportunity to fail? When we live our lives in this manner, God’s light is shining through us and then God is the One who boasts on us.

So may we continue to live in faith and freedom and shape our lives around Christ. Brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. 

#LiveFreeInChrist

Live for the Harvest

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Galatians 6:6-10 Those who are taught the word should share all good things with their teacher. Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant. Those who plant only for their own benefit will harvest devastation from their selfishness, but those who plant for the benefit of the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. 10 So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith. 

What have you learned this week? Is this something you’ll keep to yourself or will you share the information? When we learn something for the good of those around us, even those who teach us, it helps us grow in our faith and can help the other person grow in their faith as well. This is a passage that we can take in many areas of our lives. Today we can think of this to mean the “good works” we do for people, but as I was thinking about this, something else seems to stand out more for me.

Yes we should continue doing good works and help those in need. And we should also remember the fruit of the Spirit at the end of Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If this is fruit we should see in our lives, how does the harvest look for us and for those we encounter daily?

So we can plant kindness, or impatience. Love or hate. Peace or turmoil. The list can go on and on. If we look to benefit ourselves, we will leave a trail of destruction in our path and we will not be able to harvest the “fruits” from those we harm. “But, there are people who need to be taken down and shown they are in the wrong and their actions will not be tolerated!” I can imagine other thoughts people may have along those lines. But if we really take time to think about it, we are really living for ourselves, embracing our own prejudices and not “loving our neighbor as ourselves,” when we put others’ needs after our wants.

Jesus does say, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19 NIV). So the question comes in, what are we “binding up on earth?” If we bind up love and peace we can know the Kingdom of God here and now. If we bind up hatred or any form of prejudice, we miss out on the opportunity to live in grace.

It can be tiring to keep doing “good” to those around us. But we cannot get tired of doing good. We should continue to do what we can, how we can, in the strength and guidance of the Spirit. Anything that degrades value or demeans another person goes against how God desires us to live in community with each other. We can, instead, choose a different path. We have the freedom because of Jesus Christ to love God and love people. How does this play out in your life?

Even when we come across people who make us angry, frustrate us, those we don’t understand or agree with their lifestyle, we can still be the hands and feet of Christ to ALL people because each person is made in the image of God. Jesus Christ was a friend of the sinners (prostitutes, tax collectors, liars, cheats, the stuck up, the loathing, you and me).

Live in the freedom Christ gives by never stopping or tiring of doing good. So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith. Build up the community and let the light of Jesus Christ shine through so that everyone around us can see and experience the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness of God.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Sharing Life

Today, we begin the final chapter in Galatians. This is a great chapter on how we should live in community with others in the faith.

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Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. Each person will have to carry their own load. 

Throughout the letter of Galatians, Paul is speaking of a personal faith in Christ and how Christ gives individuals freedom. Now in chapter 6, the last chapter of this letter, Paul shifts his focus from the individual to the community. This should remind us that Christ is working in us personally, but Christ is also working through the community. I am not going to pretend that living in a community is easy; nor will I say it is peaceful. When we add other people into our lives, life becomes more, not less complicated. But, Paul is reminding us how we should live and encourage each other.

Paul reminds us that we should be gentle. Oftentimes we say that the other person needs to be told just like it is and it doesn’t matter how the words come out. They need to know they are wrong! This is true; but there seems to be a way to correct, but also build up so that the other person can become better. We can affirm the person’s strengths and good qualities, then we can speak of what went wrong. The end of verse one is something we should also keep in mind: Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. This reminds us that we are also susceptible for the same kinds of actions and attitudes as that of the person we are there to correct.

We do not live this life alone so. This statement by Paul reminds us how we should be with each other: Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. I think it is awesome, Paul found another way to say the simple phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the law of Christ. We should be the people who do not allow others to live, or think they live, this life alone; there are always people there for them even when life seems to go down the drain. But he also goes on to say, If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves.” To me, this means we need to be humble and not think highly of ourselves. Many times if we are trying to help someone in need, we want them to get the help they need, our way. It becomes hard to listen to a person who thinks they are more important than they are.

Conversely, we should not compare ourselves with anyone else. We should be the people who do our work to the glory of God, which means we do it as best as we can. Then, when our work is tested, we know for sure we did what we were supposed to do. We have our own work to do, so we must do our job and not add to other people’s work load just because we don’t want to do it.

Our faith in Christ gives us absolute freedom to be there for people, no matter how different they are from us, and to do our work the best we can. When we live in this way, we proclaim Christ with our entire lives, words and actions.

“LiveFreeInChrist

*photo credit: counselingoneanother.com

It’s a Process

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Galatians 5:22-25 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. 

We have all heard the fruit of the Spirit before, and many of us can quote them without even batting an eye. I find it interesting, and brilliantly placed, to have this list almost immediately following the actions that lead us away from the grace of God. One of the challenges the fruit of the Spirit does for me is, I am reminded at how far I still need to go; but God is still working in us and through us.

Have you ever prayed a prayer likes this, “God, help me to be more loving (more patient, kind, faithful, gentle, etc).”? I have and I have changed the prayer. The reason I changed it is because whenever I prayed to be more loving or kind or humble, etc, I would have a very challenging next day. I was convinced the people around me were trying to make me angry or to do everything they could to break me down. But then I realized that I was being reformed inside to be able to handle situations and people. God was answering my prayer!

Something I think is important to think about is the word “fruit.” We live in a culture that says I want to have this now, I want to be this way now, you need to change now. This is a “now” focused time and we do not like to wait. We even ask God to make us more loving, more kind, more gentle, etc, but we forget it doesn’t happen over night or by snapping our fingers. Fruit is the product of time shaping the seedling and causing the bud to transform. The process takes time.

Being sanctified takes time and is a never-ending process until we enter the Kingdom Eternal. But God is always working in us and through us for this fruit to be formed in us. We should be patient and continue to meditate on God’s word daily and allowing his Spirit to guide us and transform us. The process will be long and painful; but if we realize what’s going on, we can most likely live more joyfully and extend grace more often because of the grace that has been given to you and me.

A good reminder of the pain and turmoil it takes for transformation to take place is to look at the cross. On the cross, Jesus was still transforming the world and setting it free from sin and death,.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Guided by the Spirit

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Galatians 5:16-21 16 I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. 17 A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. 18 But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law. 19 The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, 20 idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry,21 jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. 

Here’s and interesting question, “do you consider yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit?” Does being led by the Holy Spirit mean we do not get to have any fun? The list Paul lays out, surely seems like we would be missing out on fun, if we let the Holy Spirit lead us and not allow us to go into these actions; but are we really missing out if we do not fall into these acts?

If we were to talk about each one of these actions, then this would either be a very, very long post; or it would take several days to get through. Bottom line is that we should avoid these kinds of actions because they all experience some kind of destruction at some point. Destruction of relationships. Destruction of the body. Destruction of freedom. Destruction of our proximity to God. Now, I do not mean here that God is further away in distance. Our proximity to God never changes, because God does not leave us. Our relationship to God can feel light years away when we choose a life that is far from the life in grace he offers us.

So here’s the question again, “do you consider yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit?” This is an extremely important question because the answer will help us live a happier, more peaceful, more joyful, fulfilled life than if we were to do everything we felt like we wanted to do, or even go with the crowd.

In our fallen state, we have a tendency to live life for us instead of living the life God desires us to live. The point of this passage is not to keep us from having any fun in life. We can have so much fun in our lives. The point of having this passage is to show us, some of, the things that will cause sin to live in our lives. If sin rules our lives, we may not hear the pull of God trying to bring us back into a life of grace.

God’s kingdom is not just for some point in the future. God’s kingdom can be experienced and lived in today, here and now. That is one of the joyous parts of the gospel. Living for God gives us greater life and greater joy. Our challenge is to not indulge our freedom to do whatever we want, but to be FREE to live the way God is desiring us to live: holy and set a part lives.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Life With Others

Today, we receive this word from Paul which reminds us how we can be in relationship with those around us.

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Galatians 5:13-15 13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. 14 All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other! 

Even though we are free in Jesus Christ, we should be careful not to take advantage of this incredible gift. There is always the chance that those who Christ has set free, will begin to think any way of life is okay and begin indulging into acts and temptations that should be stayed away from. Just because we are free does not mean we can do anything we want. This is what we should be careful of.

Paul reminds us here that the entire law can be summed up with this one phrase: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This seems easy enough, in theory; but it can be excruciatingly difficult to show love to someone who is acting very unlovable. We all know people who are unlovable and are around them daily, and we will do everything we can to either get away from them or make their day as bad as possible.

Here are some things to consider. Even those that we consider unlovable are loved by someone; and, even though we find someone else unlovable, we are considered to be unlovable by another person. Sometimes the same thing we find hard to manage or bad qualities, others may feel the same way about us. How does this sit with you? This really makes me think about how I am viewed in society and how I should treat others with more grace.

These verses end with this warning: “But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!” This is something we may not take as seriously, or we may have skimmed all together and not have paid that much attention to these words. Paul is arguing not to let the freedom we have in Christ go to our head and make us think we are more valuable than another person. We are all equal in Christ and Paul reminds us of this throughout Galatians.

What Paul is saying at the end of these verses is that we can destroy each other (emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, relationally, etc). Paul is warning against this. If we think more highly of ourselves, another person could feel the same way about themselves and them trouble can happen. With this warning, Paul reminds us we should work to live in peace and allow love to build up the community, not having knowledge puffing up our egos.

Paul can give some harsh words in his letters, but they are words we need to hear and allow to make a home within our hearts and minds so that we can be transformed with the peace and presence of Christ within us to make transformations in the world around us.

#LiveFreeInChrist