Category Archives: Relationships

Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

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An old friend, Richard, recently called me. He used to live in town and attend my church. For the past seven years or so, he’s been a member of a large church in Phoenix.

We were catching up and reminiscing about old friends when he said to me, “I had coffee with my current men’s pastor yesterday, and he told me some honest things about his marriage and about something stupid he said to his wife.”

I chimed in, “That’s cool!”

He awkwardly paused, and then said with a confused tone, “How is that cool?”

“It’s cool that your pastor owned his stuff and that he’s being real with you. It’s the people who try to hide and deny their sins that worry me.”

Bob said, “I guess I expected the guy pastoring men to be . . . well . . . to be more spiritually mature.”

Without hesitation, I reminded Bob of the many times he heard me tell stories of my idiocy. I also told him we all walk with a limp, and none of us is without a soul blemish or two (or twenty).

On this side of eternity, the reality we don’t like to admit, but must, is that we all fall short of perfection.

We say things that hurt.

We do things that offend.

We think things we don’t want to think.

We go places in our hearts that are dark and terribly inconsistent with who we are in Christ.

If you can relate, then welcome to the human race.

Yes, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. Of course, we should be growing. The plan is for us to mature in our faith and to sin less.

But most of us miss the marks of purity and perfection on a fairly regular basis—pastors included.

I’ve been in ministry for nearly forty years. I’ve pastored small churches and a big church. I’ve been on large church staffs. I’ve also been close to quite a few mega-church pastors over the years.

I can assure you of this: every pastor is fractured, and some more than you might imagine.

But as someone once pointed out, it is our fractures that allow God’s light in and out of our souls.

Because I am broken, I am humbled, and God delights to work with the humble (James 4:6).

Because I am fractured, I am relatable, and people want to connect with a person who is authentic and true.

By the way, Paul, the great missionary and author of most of the New Testament, boasted about his weaknesses.

In another recent blog, I mentioned my new favorite book, People of the Second Chance. If I could afford it, I would buy a copy of this encouraging book for all of my family and friends. It’s that good!

In the book, Mike Foster says, “We don’t need to hide our flaws. We need to own them. We need to ditch perfectionism and own our imperfections. The simple truth is this: perfection is impossible. It’s not attainable. You will never, ever be perfect. Our imperfections are what make us human, and they help us relate to each other. Don’t seek perfection. Seek goodness. Wonderful, messy, love-saturated goodness.”

Foster goes on to write, “Nobody feels more pressure to be perfect than the person in the pulpit.”

Wow. When I grow up, I want to write like Mike!

Let me be clear; not for a second am I suggesting we just wallow in our weaknesses. Of course, holiness matters. I never want to use my human condition of imperfection as an excuse to keep sinning.

However . . .

I will sin.

I will fail.

I am broken.

But . . .

I am growing.

I am free from shame.

I am loved.

When we come to this place of peace despite our imperfections, we find it much easier to love ourselves, to live free of fear, and to love others as we are loved. Grace is grown here.

Yes, your pastor is broken, and it’s okay; you are too.

Welcome to the fellowship of the fractured.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts,

 but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars

containing this great treasure.

This makes it clear that our

great power is from God,

not from ourselves.”

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)

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10 Responses to Your Pastor is Broken (and It’s Okay)

  1. Thank you Kurt. Thus is just what I needed right now. What an awesome feeling to know that you’re not alone in being imperfect and to know that we can keep being loved and able to always keep going forward. Amen!

    • I love what Steven Furtick wrote in (Un)Qualified, “God knows everything about you–including the ugly parts, the broken parts, the dysfunctional parts–yet he still believes in you. He still has a future and a hope for you.”
      Glad you were encouraged today, Mari. You are loved!

  2. That common saying of You are never truly alone…it MEANS something when a person you like or look up to shows/talks about their broken parts…it really doesn’t hit home that you are NOT alone in whatever hardship going on in your life until it’s relatable with someone else. THIS is why I really like your blog… it CONSTANTLY reminds me we ALL just want love & to be loved no matter what.

  3. Thanks for the great post. What is the best way of learning, seems to me it comes from failing. I would assume learning to be pure love would require the infinite grace of God plus a lot of failure, or recognition of failure on our part, part of our learning experience. Looking forward to your next blog and sermon. Love in Christ to you.

  4. Yes, we are all broken vessels, but we can shine God’s light through the cracks.
    Thank you for your honesty and candidness here, Kurt! It’s certainly a message we all need to hear.
    Blessings!

What Ticked Jesus Off? (And Why Are Some Christians So Angry?)

What Ticked Jesus Off? (And Why Are Some Christians So Angry?)

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We Christians (and I include myself in that group) are too easily offended at times. We are a passionate people given to strong feelings and even stronger opinions. Few in our culture are confused about what matters to us. Frankly, believers are known for what we are against, and the list is long.

Certainly, many of the issues we fight for are significant. However, and let’s be honest, some of the things we get irritated about have nothing to do with Biblical truth and are far more about personal preferences.

For the record, I’m an evangelical, Bible believing pastor and Christian.

I believe the Word is clear about what matters to God.

  • Mercy and grace

  • Forgiveness and eternal life

  • Injustice

  • Abuse

  • Truth

  • Discord within the Body of Christ

And the list goes on . . .

Without question, there are a lot of things that absolutely matter to God. However, there are many things that matter to some Christians, but not so much to Christ.

  • The volume of the worship music

  • When and how often a church should take communion

  • The appropriate translation of the Bible to be used in a message

  • Guys wearing hats in church

And again, the list goes on . . .

Rather than get all spun-out over our pet peeves, perhaps we should consider one simple, yet important question: What made Jesus mad?

As Christ-followers, it would seem obvious that what upset Jesus ought to disturb us. If it mattered to Him, it should matter to us. Conversely, if it didn’t seem to matter much to Jesus, perhaps it shouldn’t matter to us.

As a pastor, author, and blogger, on a regular basis I get an email from someone “deeply concerned” about something. The long emails usually have a bite, and they are generally written by a person who is extremely upset (the CAPS and !!!! are a dead give-away).

Yes, being corrected is a good thing when you’re wrong. In fact, I welcome constructive criticism. I never want to be above rebuke because I want to live a life that is above reproach.

Rarely, however, is their “issue” related to a doctrinal concern or Biblical error on my part. Typically, it’s about a matter of style or church practice.

I get it. People have opinions, and that’s fine.

I know that not everybody sees things the way I see them, and that’s to be expected.

What continually amazes me, however, is the mean and vile nature of some who call themselves Christ-followers.

I just listened to a phone message from someone who is, at best, an infrequent attender at our church. She called to complain about something that “really bothers her.” I can deal with the fact that she’s upset. I appreciate that she is attempting to communicate with me.

The problem? She was caustic, rude, and unkind. Not at all like Jesus.

How sad.

I recently attempted to point out to another parishioner how important it is to be like Jesus when you’re outraged. He blurted out, “Yeah, but Jesus got mad! There’s such a thing as righteous indignation!”

I looked at him, and said as gently as possible, “Yes, Jesus did get infuriated at times, but perhaps it would be a worthwhile endeavor for you to study what actually ticked Jesus off.”

So, what did upset Jesus?

  • Hardness of heart (Mark 3:1-5)

  • Selfish ambition (Mark 8:31-38)

  • Spiritual arrogance (Luke 9:51-55)

  • Self-centeredness (Matthew 23:10-12)

  • Hypocrisy and fake religiosity (Luke 11:37-54)

Try as you might, you won’t find any passage in which Jesus got mad at sinners for being sinners. You will, however, find Him very angry with the so-called righteous.

You won’t find Jesus spouting off about Rome or the Emperor. He simply reminded His followers that His kingdom is not of this world.

You won’t see Jesus venting about people wearing hats in the Synagogue (they all did), or about the volume of worship (the Jews tend to like it loud, check this out).

Let’s own it: the stuff that ticks a lot of us off didn’t matter at all to Jesus.

Have your opinions. Be passionate. Express yourself.

But please stop being an angry Christian, unless it’s about something that also made Christ mad.

I love this quote by M.R. DeHaan, “We need not all agree, but if we disagree, let us not be disagreeable in our disagreements.”

What a concept. Rather than disdain, contempt, and scorn for others, let’s do our best, especially with our brothers and sisters, to live in humility, harmony, and peace.

In the words of one of my favorite NEEDTOBREATHE songs: be more heart and less attack.

“Dear brothers and sisters,

I close my letter with these last words:

Be joyful. Grow to maturity.

Encourage each other.

Live in harmony and peace.

Then the God of love and peace

will be with you.”

2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT

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20 Responses to What Ticked Jesus Off? (And Why Are Some Christians So Angry?)

  1. Well said Sir!! I appreciate your techniques to keep it friendly & loving & joyful…. so the other person “hopefully” mimics that… I LIKE that. I will remember to employ that myself in my daily routines to hopefully make my surroundings a better place…& it can’t hurt my attitude if I attempt to be at peace & joyful myself.

    • Thank you, Kelly. I’m always reminded it’s better to be a thermostat (affecting our environment) rather than a thermometer (just reflecting it). You are loved.

  2. I love this, as I find myself in a work situation where there was under handedness and disrespect, I was being made fun of and the work environment was volatile at times, I had files thrown across the desk at me and was told this is stupid, I was yelled at by a coworker who blamed me for her troubles at work. Yesterday (3 days before my last day of work)I found out that some of my policies I wrote where stolen by this coworker where she received monetary benefits. I was furious. Before I reacted in outburst I sat at my computer and asked God what to do..I kept feeling this just leave and it over took me..I clocked off and walked off the job…whether right or wrong I didn’t want to be the volatile one or react in a manner I would have to take responsibility for. I do know there needs to be an explanation & I will be talking with HR in the next day and they are opened to what I have to say. I am very angry, hurt and upset that this has gone on in the work place in a place that prides itself doing what is right…

  3. Well said, Kurt. Reminds me of something I read reminding me that in this life journey, I will never ever look into the eyes of another human being that God does not love outrageously and respect, even if he or she is living far, far away from God today. Tomorrow there could be the beginning of a radical change…if they encounter God’s love through one of His own.

    Vicious anger won’t work to change the world or another person, but rather builds a high and wide wall between people instead.

  4. Hi Pastor Kurt. Good blog. Reminded me of Brant Hansen’s “Unoffendable”. Similar points that as Christians, we’re really not entitled to get offended or stay angry. Lots of bible verse references, including James 1:20, “The anger of a man does not produce the righteous of God.” Makes you think about your reasons for feeling the way you do. A good read I’d recommend to others. Have a blessed day!

  5. I love this Kurt, and could not agree more. In fact I was just about to post something on Facebook about people who call themselves Christians ranting and raving about the faults of other people – calling them prejudice, intolerant, judgemental and so on. The irony of it was that they themselves were showing their intolerance and judgement of others. Thank you for shining a light on this topic!

  6. Oh, wow, Kurt! I just penned a blog which will post tomorrow, and although very different from yours here, the ideas expressed are much the same. I love God-incidences like this!
    And what a great point you make about what made Jesus angry. He is the model we should be following, not making “idols” of our particular preferences.
    Blessings!

  7. You know what ticks me off Kurt. When people are critical of the music, hats in church, shorts, cutoffs, and, above all Pastors. I say that because my son is a pastor and some of his “good Christian” members have been so hurtful. Sometimes, I wish he was not a pastor. Anyway, that is my vent for tonight. Oh, stupid truck drivers and 4 wheel drivers tick me off too and I have to pray for them when I encounter them so I pretty much pray continually.

  8. HERE’S TO ALL CAPS

    WELL SAID!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU’RE WRITING KEEPS IT REAL AND TO THE POINT.
    TURN IT UP AND THROW THE HATS ON.

    LOVE MY KMART PASTOR

An Experiment in “Anti-Social” Behavior

An Experiment in “Anti-Social” Behavior

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It’s day three, and my withdrawal symptoms are raging. Shakes. Irritability. Difficulty focusing. Depression.

If you had told me I was “addicted,” I would have denied it, but apparently I am.

Okay, I’m a bit melodramatic. I’m not depressed, and the shakes are from a lack of coffee. However, it’s surprising to me how difficult my latest act of obedience has become.

I recently felt like God asked me to go without social media or television for 2017. That’s right, a whole year.

What no Facebook? No Twitter? No Instagram? No Madam Secretary or Designated Survivor?

Yup.

Crazy, huh?

Here’s a bit of the backstory.

I was one of the early Facebook users. I wasn’t, however, using it a lot or using any other social media sites until just before my first book, Epic Grace, got published. My agent and my publisher at Tyndale told me, “You need to set up an author page on Facebook and get on Twitter and maybe Pinterest to promote your book.”

I didn’t even know what Pinterest was (and it took me days to figure it out). I thought Twitter was stupid. But okay, I’ll jump in and do my best. So, I set up the accounts and downloaded all the apps on my smartphone and iPad.

Since then, I’ve posted thousands of pictures, pins, and pithy comments. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing to admit how much time I’ve spent on social media. It was the first and the last thing I did every day, and let’s just say my time on “the throne” also increased exponentially

For decades, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the idiot box (i.e. TV). In the early years of our family, we often chose not to have a television in our home. It seemed counter-productive to a healthy family environment, and we wanted our kids to be avid readers.

Then after a while we’d break down and buy a cheap one, and end up watching it too much until we tossed it again in frustration (or at least stuck it in the closet) after about a year.

For the last ten years or so, with all the kids out of the house and a bit more free time on our hands, my wife and I found it relaxing to watch a few of our favorite programs together each week.

But then a few each week became a couple each night. It was my fault. I’d say, “I’m pretty tired and stressed, let’s just veg-out tonight in front of the TV.”

Back in the dark ages (when I was a kid), most of the TV programs were limited and awfully stupid. Of course, I watched them anyhow, but you can only take so much of Gilligan’s Island or Green Acres.

Nowadays, there are hundreds of choices and many truly entertaining programs flooding the airwaves. Fortunately, I’m married to an action junkie like me, so we’d both get excited about programs like Alias, 24, Burn Notice, or NCIS.

Then NCIS became NCIS Los Angeles, NCIS New Orleans, and NCIS Spokane (still waiting for that one).

Of course, the fact that the Seahawks became fun to watch didn’t help reduce my TV watching either, and man those three hours go by fast.

Then God whispered to my heart a few days ago, “What do you think 2017 would be like for you without any social media or TV?”

“Uh, God, stupid, and boring, plus I’d probably just work 12-hour days instead of 10-hour days!”

Silence.

The next day, I see this YouTube link about Millennials on Facebook, ironically. One of the things this Brit, Simon Sinek, is talking about is the negative impact of social media on the younger generation and our culture.

Seriously, Sinek, why are you so cynical?

But God was speaking to me again (btw, if He can speak through a donkey, He can speak through anybody, even Simon Sinek).

“Kurt, imagine the relational growth you might experience with your friends and family without TV. Imagine the new things you might learn without all the distractions. Imagine how you might better use your time to write more without social media. Imagine all the books you’ll get to read without all that wasted time.”

Surrender.

And now I’m getting excited!

Just this morning I read something extremely confirming to me by one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp.

She wrote, “This is the year to engage silences regularly and retreat to the ‘back side of the wilderness.’ Because when you do not need to be seen or heard—you can see and hear in desperately needed ways. You find your true self when you look for your reflection in the eyes of souls—and not the glare of screens. Break free, break out of ruts, break idols—or they will break you.”

Hmmm . . . you find your true self in your reflection in the eyes of souls—not in the glare of screens. Wow.

So, my so-called experiment in “anti-social” behavior (at least via social media and TV) begins. I’m still using email, I’ll be on my computer writing more, and I need to enlarge my book budget, but I’m pumped to see what 2017 holds for me.

Maybe God has something to say to you about all of this?

Of course, my directive from God is not necessarily yours, but you might want to ask Him what He wants from you this next year.

It could be exciting.

Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who

hear the word of God

and put it into practice.”

Luke 11:28 (NLT)

 

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16 Responses to An Experiment in “Anti-Social” Behavior

  1. I turned off my social, except Netflix, well over ten years ago. Result, haven’t missed it one bit. Slight withdrawal but that disappeared soon after the severance. Today i get whatever news I may want from internet sources (not that they are any better) but I am not exposed to the never ending commerdials; oh how they bugged me. BTW, i never listen to the radio in my car, amazing how nice silence is, how clear my thinking can be, how in touch I feel sometimes.

    I dont physically talk to myself, do it mentallly now and hear God pretty clearly, sometimes. As I am a senior in age, dont feel it though, i seem to do a lot of thinking, dont have anyone to debate or share ideas, so i find talking to the Lord peaceful at times, should do it more often, good New Years, draw a line in the sand idea.

    Just a quick note to share that social media, for me was like giving up cigarettes, course i dont smoke but you get the idea. Thanks for your service, i searched for the right service for me, I was led to Eastpoint, i have found a home. God bless you in your challenge to continue to avoid social media,, it gets easier over time and surprisingly, you dont miss out on the news, it seems to find you somehow.

    Ciao. Bob

  2. Dad, not many people have noticed but for the last several months I frequently will go 1, 2 or even 3 weeks without getting on Facebook. I was with Facebook when it first started, back when there was still MySpace, and Facebook was created for Students. I love the connection it brings to family and friends far away, but I tire of hearing “you didn’t know?! …I posted it on Facebook!!” So, I chose a while ago to go without it from time to time. I miss out on a lot of social media “news”, but it forces me to reconnect with people in real life (IRL). To gather my news through IRL connections. I love my Facebook free weeks. I always go back to it, but I’ve learned that I can live without it, and the quality of life improves. I spend more time reading, as my wonderful parents taught me. I’ve started writing again, Kyle and I spend more quality time together, and I find myself having more time for the important things in life. Especially more God time. I probably won’t go a whole year without, but I will continue to do my Facebook fasts. This is a great post, Dad! Go you!! Proud to be your daughter! Love you lots!

  3. People wonder why I do not get on Facebook. Well, I would take it on like a “job” and I am retired. It still takes time to erase the 40 or so emails I receive each day – mostly from places that want to sell me something. But, I can get distracted by the idiot box. Even Tiny House Nation can become habit forming. I need the reminder that junk food tv is still junk food tv. If God has a plan for the remainder of my days on earth, I need to spend more time listening. Thanks for the timely reminder.

  4. Great work Kurt. I’ve been off of facebook for nearly 4 years now and I was happy on day 1, and still am today (and I’m a millenial).

    The social media culture is not quite as life giving as most would hope or pretend it to be.

  5. This is added confirmation to my own conversations with God lately. Three weeks ago I removed FB app from my phone after a long conversation with my life long best friend. I happen to believe God speaks through her all the time 🙂 – We were discussing the stress FB actually was placing in our lives… the time suck it has become and how I am privy to unwanted knowledge or information that ultimately makes me feel sad or frustrated on a regular basis. And on January 1, 2017 I aimed at giving it up altogether for 21 days and I would see how I felt going forward from there. It’s day 5.. I yearn a little to see what is going on in the cyber world but that yearning is trumped by the peace and contentment I am feeling and the ability to pursue more satisfying interests… reading, writing and talking face to face with my kids and hubby. Thank you Kurt! I don’t know if I am ready to drop TV yet, but I admire your example and appreciate your candid thoughts! Happy “freeing” New Year!

Thankful for My Enemies?

Thankful for My Enemies?

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In one twenty-four-hour period, I ran into two families who pretty much hate me. Once upon a time we had been friends. These encounters weren’t the first time I’ve seen these people, but, ironically, my personal devotion that day had been from Luke 6 about loving our enemies.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a loving, sovereign God who has a way of dealing with my heart. If I know anything (and sometimes I wonder if I do), I know that God is far more committed to my character than He is to my comfort.

The good news—I didn’t feel anger or hate toward these people. I wasn’t anxious or afraid. But I did feel pain and the angst of loss.

Tossing and turning in bed last night, I said out loud, “God, how am I to deal with this situation and these people? I’ve asked them to forgive me, and I’ve forgiven them. I don’t know what else to do!”

He whispered to my soul, “Be thankful for your enemies.”

thankful-water-2

Not what I wanted or expected to hear from God.

You’ve heard it, and I’ve taught it: Be thankful in everything but not necessarily thankful for everything.

Yes, I’m supposed to be thankful in all things regardless of the good, the bad, or the ugly in my life. (Did someone just whistle?) But I don’t have to be thankful for cancer or for any other horrible thing that’s happened.

Thankfulness in all circumstances does not mean gratefulness for all circumstances. Thankful in but not always thankful for is good theology.

So God and I had a bit of a disagreement. “Father, I can be thankful in my pain and despite the sting of a broken relationship, but being thankful for these people, my enemies, is just stupid!”

The heavens were silent.

“Okay, God, why?”

Then it hit me.

I can be thankful for my enemies because of the way God is using them to mold and change me into the image of His Son. (You might want to go back and read that last line again.)

  • My enemy provides an opportunity for me to love the unlovely even as God has loved me.

  • thankful-picMy enemy provides a path for personal blessing. I get blessed by God when I love the haters, and I can rejoice in a reward that will someday be mine in heaven.

  • My enemy provides a profound opportunity for me to practice the golden rule.

  • My enemy provides me with a chance to be more like my Father, who is kind and merciful to the ungrateful and wicked.

By the way, all of the above can be found in Luke 6 (you should click on this link and read verses 22-36).

Of course, we are supposed to love everyone, but why should you and I be thankful for those who curse and hate us?

Because our enemies help us to grow.

be-thankful-3

Being thankful for those who hate me changes my fear about them or my frustration with them into a radically different perspective.

My enemy is a gift. A gift I can be thankful for.

Didn’t see that one coming, but I’m glad I did.

Blessed are you when people hate you,

when they exclude you and insult you

and reject your name as evil,

because of the Son of Man.

 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,

because great is your reward in heaven.

For that is how their ancestors

treated the prophets.

Luke 6: 22-23

 

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12 Responses to Thankful for My Enemies?

  1. Kurt … Outstanding insight. It hurts when God starts chipping away from us those things that don’t look like Jesus.

    I’m a slow learner unfortunately.

    Then there are those precious times I’ve perceived someone to be against me and I had the wrong messages floating around my gray matter.

    Ron

  2. Wow. The line “God is more interested in my character than my comfort” really stood out & spoke to me!
    Hard stuff but God told me years ago not only to forgive but to bless.

  3. I’m right there right now and it’s been hard to come to church feeling the shame. How can God and his people love me when one of my closest family members and family have chosen to disowned and reject me for the rest of my life? Your messages have been a comfort to me. I’ve grown more through this experience so I have to be thankful for this. I still pray for reconciliation, but it’s healing to hear that I’m not alone in this experience.

    • Hi Judy, it’s hard not to believe the lies we are told (and sometimes tell ourselves)… I’m so sorry for the relational conflict you’re experiencing with your family. Know I am praying for you right now. Know too…you are loved…no matter what. Blessings.

  4. Hi Kurt,
    This post brings to my remembrance of Proverbs 27:
    17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

    When we take the mindset behind this verse, and apply it to any enemies that we face instead of friends, I believe that spiritual growth or maturity is the end result. Well, at least to a certain extent.

    Also, weaker tempered iron is sharpened by a harder tempered iron. The one being sharpened, wouldn’t overcome the one that’s sharpening it. There may be a blog post in that somewhere…

    Great post and very informative!
    God bless,
    Brian Reynolds

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