Pastors, what are we protecting? 8 Reasons why being vulnerable is better.

Have you ever heard or read something that shocked you, but the shock wasn’t necessarily in the statement. The shock was the fact that it tapped into your past. Our memories are so powerful. It amazes me how one moment in the present can send you back to a place many years before, but in the moment, it was just like it happened yesterday.

I saw a tweet the other day.

I found myself sitting in one of my bible college classes listening to my professor saying the words,

“As a pastor, you can’t be too vulnerable. Don’t open up to your people lest you tarnish the office of “The Pastor.” The sheep need a shepherd to follow and they won’t if they know you are struggling. If you’re dealing with issues, leave them at home and fake it till you make it. Protect the office of pastor.”

For the first few years of ministry, I pretended I had it all together. My sermons contained the words “you” instead of “we.” I’d want to respond to messages or even in worship but I was caught up in the “office” and I was missing my purpose. In my mind, People don’t want to really KNOW their pastor. They wanted to follow an image.

But the more I began to step back, the more I realized two things:

1 – To have people follow an image that isn’t authentic is deceptive.

2 – This is not the way Jesus led.

To be “real” is to be “vulnerable” and to be “vulnerable” is to live dangerously. I’m not talking about TMI in regards to intimate things that are nobody’s business. But true vulnerability that, yes, lowers the defenses, but helps people to see who I am. I know that revealing the real “me” can open me up to attack. In my opinion, it’s the only way to live.   As a pastor, it’s the only way for me to effectively minister.

8 Reasons why vulnerability is best:

1 – Vulnerability reminds you that are not a super-human. It puts you on common ground with everyone around you. Ephesians 2:8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”

2 – Vulnerability removes the idol of “YOU.” It keeps you from worshiping and striving after an image of who you think you are. It keeps your eyes on Jesus and makes His image in you a priority. 2 Corinthians 3:18 “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

3 – Vulnerability reveals to OTHERS your lack of perfection. I remember someone saying to me years ago, “The ground around the cross is level.” We’ve all strayed away. We all have screwed up (Romans 3:23).

4 – Vulnerability gives credence to the narrative of Christ in your life. It helps people see Jesus working in you. Galatians 2:20 “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

5 – Vulnerability fosters humility in you before pride can come out of you. I love what Proverbs 29:23 says, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” Being vulnerable helps chase away the attitude of entitlement and helps us live as a servant.

6 – Vulnerability opens the door for others to minister to you. Our defenses are lowered in vulnerability. It’s tough to do because we’re afraid of being hurt again. It’s in John 12 where we see the story of Mary anointing Jesus.   Her vulnerability burst open the doors of her heart to receive what Jesus had in store for her that left her completely changed.

7 – Vulnerability reminds others they are not alone. It becomes the pipeline for the testimony of Christ. I love the tenacity of Paul who in Romans 7:15 shared, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Yet in the bluntness of his struggles, was perhaps the greatest minister of the Gospel we know about. His openness about his humanity didn’t stifle the work of Jesus. It gave Jesus a platform to shine.

8 – Vulnerability brings intimacy. This is what most experience on the wedding night.  Being vulnerable paves the way to intimate moments.  Some of my favorite moments in the bible is when we see images of Jesus in vulnerable situations.  He was angry at money-changers and he was upset at disciples for preventing the kids from coming to him. Jesus was overwhelmed with compassion seeing people come out of the city of Jerusalem and he was overwhelmed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Outside of the ultimate point of vulnerability, the cross, favorite point of vulnerability of Jesus is found in  John 11. At the funeral of a friend, verse 35 it says, “Jesus wept.” In moments like these, his vulnerability draws me closer to him.  He cried.  His heart hurt at the loss of a friend.  And his vulnerability, Jesus drew close to us and brings us closer to him.  He identified with us and, through that, it made a way for intimacy with God.

What are we really protecting by restricting vulnerability?  Are we protecting ourselves from hurt?  Or are we trying to protect an image of ourselves that we were never really supposed to have? We don’t need perfect people in the world. We need disciples of Jesus ready to show the world the life of Christ working in our humanity.  The way to do it, is to be vulnerable, first to Christ, then to others.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Marriage Blog: Is it easy being married to me?

It’s a simple question to ask…But perhaps, it’s the most ignored question in marriage.

“Is it easy being married to me?”

Have you asked yourself that? I try to avoid the question. Why? Because of two reasons:

1. I’d rather shift the focus to my wife so, therefore, she has to be the one to change. That way, she can be the one to blame and I feel better about me.

2. If I answered the question TRUTHFULLY, then I have to be responsible for making changes necessary to be who my wife needs me to be. After all, if anyone needs to change, it’s not me.  My wife needs to change.

At the first sign of marriage issues, self-preservation and human tendency moves us to look for blame in someone else.  We desire to protect what we tend to cherish most: ourselves. This isn’t anything new to humanity. We see this in the beginning in the Eden incident (Genesis 3:12-13).   Instead of taking ownership of mistakes, we shift the focus upon something or somebody to preserve the way of life we want to embrace.

But that’s why the question is soooooo good. It confronts you with a reality that some of the issues that you are facing in your marriage (and/or the issues that will be forthcoming) can stem from a spouse (being you) that is unwilling to take a strong look in the mirror, recognize challenges, and strive for change.

“Why should I have to change?  Why can’t he/she change?  I’ve already sacrificed enough.”

Honestly, is it not easy to being married to you.  You may not think that’s the case.  You’re spouse might be too nice to really tell you.  But it’s time to take a step back and ask the all important question:

“Is it easy to be married to me?” 

I’ve had a running joke over the past 16 years of marriage.  I remind my wife how lucky she is to have married me.  With an odd grin, she always agrees (be it VERY sarcastically) with the statement.  She doesn’t say much more than that.  Why?  Because she knows the underlying reality: it’s not easy to be married to Dave Barringer.  I know she knows it.  Even better, she knows I know it.  But there are times I fail to remember.

I forget she’s married to a man who…

…deals with depression.
…brings his work home.
…is over-dramatic.
…loses all focus when football is on.
…lives with insomnia from a brain that won’t shut off.
…overreacts from stress.
…expects too much from his children because he forgets they’re only 12 and 15.
…wants more physical touch than she’s in the mood for.
…isn’t OCD and doesn’t care much about the cleanliness of the home.
…isn’t wired the way his wife is.
…has to share his focus between her, the family, and an entire congregation.

The list isn’t to create a “boo-hoo” moment for Dave.  It’s just a start of my list I use to remind myself that I am NOT always God’s gift to Anne.  I have more than a few moments that test the sanity of my wife.  There are times I forget what she has to deal with.  And when I do, I project the issue of the day as an “Anne” issue or suppose if there’s any change to be made, it’s definitely her that needs to grow.

I’d venture she’d have her own list to make (as most of you would).  But it boils down to you having the guts to ask the question.

“Is it easy to be married to me?” 

In Psalm 139:12, the Psalmist pens this words:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

This is this heart we need to live toward God.  The answer will place your feet in a Kingdom lifestyle of humility and personal growth that will lead you “along the path of everlasting life.”  When speaking of our marriage, this is the attitude we need to replicate in our marriage.  And if you do, it will lead your marriage along the path of life that Christ can breath into you both.

And it can begin with asking yourself the simple question:

“Is it easy to be married to me?” 

The answer and your response (humility and teachability) can lead your marriage receiving a brand new breath of life.

 

…thanks for letting me ramble.

 

2 Minute Marriage Devo – Day 7

Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos. This month we are in our Annual Marriage Series at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God and we’re going through devotions for couples. Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Proverbs 11:17

A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

Stupid Spouse: A culture of demeaning our mate.

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I do like sitcoms (situational comedies).  I grew up watching them. You probably have your favorites. I’ve got mine (MASH, Newhart, Taxi, Cosby Show, and Home Improvement). The really good sitcoms take every day situations for the everyday person and makes them funny.  It’s what keeps our attention and helps us to see the humor in own lives.  Now that Netflix has “Everyone Loves Raymond,” I find myself finally watching the show right before I sleep just to let the comedy relax my mind before sleep.

But…it’s got me thinking.

At 30-minute intervals, we see situations revealed and the comedy unfold.  While we watch, we, and especially our children, subliminally soak in messages and quotes.  They sit in our minds and crowd up our memories.  (Even now, you’re thinking of your own favorite sitcoms and/or the quotes and moments that stick out to you.) Unfortunately, over the years, there seems to be a steady vein running through most sitcoms.  It was there from my earliest memories of seeing “The Honeymooners” and it lingers now into our modern-day shows.

The “Stupid Spouse.”

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stu·pid/ˈst(y)o͞opid/ lacking intelligence or common sense.

Most of you reading this won’t have to think back very far to see the sitcom with the “Stupid Spouse.”  You name the sitcom and you’ll have no problem naming off the spouse or the person in the relationship that has been chosen to be “stupid.” Not only is he/she the butt of the jokes, but the role that he/she plays becomes a laughing-stock of their family. Children are allowed to disregard dad because he’s an idiot. Don’t respect mom because she’s disconnected from reality. Husbands are spineless and weak leaders.  Wives are selfish and conniving. There is very little respect for marriage as well as parenting.

My wondering: has what we have been viewing and enjoying been allowed to soak into our own families? Have we allowed our entertainment to actually shape our marriages?  Have they become emotional pornography creating unrealistic ideals that ravage the reality of how the Lord has designed you both?

Do you have a culture of demeaning your spouse?

Our homes SHOULD be the place of safety. Our spouse SHOULD be our greatest supporter.  Our marriage SHOULD be the source of our greatest encouragement.

But somewhere in this demeaning culture, we have become what we watch.  We tear down our spouse.  Now we don’t do it to their face all the time. Let them leave the room first before we give a comment to our kids about how you disagree with their father/mother.  When our parents call us, we’ll start-up again on how “stupid” our spouse is.  We’ll even go to church and sing of the love of God and put on the facade to our friends of how our family is. Somewhere this has to stop.  Someone has to draw a line in the sand and make a stand for encouragement.

James deals this sensitive subject by saying, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

If you find yourself thinking about how stupid (lacking intelligence or common sense) your spouse is…
If you are constantly refusing to let your spouse be a helpmate…
If you cannot speak to them respectfully and lovingly…
If you cannot talk about your spouse without tearing them down to someone…

Husbands and wives…THESE THINGS OUGHT NOT TO BE SO!

Before you cancel your cable, Netflix, and Hulu accounts, take a step back.  I’m not telling you to go all “pharisee” on me with your TV’s and computers.  I’m asking for you to just pause and reflect.  It’s time to turn the tide of the culture of your home.

1 – It starts with you.  I’ve dealt with too many marriages where a husband and wife are acting like middle schoolers and not adults.  Don’t wait for him/her to make the first move to having a culture of respect and honor.  Thank the Lord that Jesus didn’t wait for us to make the first move back to him before he extended love toward us. “Drawing a line in the sand” ISN’T about “do this or I’m leaving.”  It’s about saying, “It stops here and now.” STOP TRYING TO CHANGE YOUR SPOUSE!  Let the change start in you.

2 – Ask for forgiveness.  Admitting fault is not a sign of weakness.  It’s a sign of strength. Hiding your faults is what makes you weak. Humility is the antibiotic for a pride-filled marital culture.  Proverbs 22:4 says, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”

3 – Create culture.  Embrace who your spouse is and how the Lord created them as an individual. Your differences are to be celebrated…not rejected. Create a culture where encouragement and praise becomes the norm. When there is a culture of edification, the constructive criticism that is needed for growth is received on furtive soil as opposed to calloused hearts that have been damaged by harsh remarks and disrespect.  You may have been married 2 years, 20 years, or 40 years.  It’s not too late to create a new culture of encouragement that will foster the atmosphere of healthy marital growth.

4 – Lastly, be dedicated to feeding the new culture.  Occasionally, Anne ticks me off.  I never make her mad (okay that’s a lie). But there needs to be a decision that, no matter how out of the norm it is for you, to feed the culture of encouragement and honor.  Your kids cannot see and hear you demeaning their father/mother.  Your parents cannot hear you tearing your spouse down.  Before other and before the Lord, chose to be a spouse who builds instead of destroys.  Ephesians 4:29 says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” You will have moments that you will not feel like feeding the “new culture.” That’s where we come to grips with the fact that love is a decision and not just a feeling.  Love your spouse to feed the culture of a healthy marriage.

If we were real here, we’d admit we ALL have moments where we are lacking intelligence or common sense.  Be humble to see that in yourself and that humility will feed into how you deal with your spouse.

Encourage liberally.  Laugh loudly.  Love unconditionally. 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo: “Don’t miss this piece” Phil. 2:1-11

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October is our journey through the 2 minute series called “Resurrecting Repentance”.  It’s as simple as viewing the vlog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is Phil. 2:1-11:

Philippians 2:1-11

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

2 Minute Marriage Devo: “How do I respond to God?” #marriage

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June is our journey through some scripture selections on the topic of Marriage.  I want to invite you to join me. It’s as simple as looking at the blog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is Luke 1:1-56:

Luke 1:1-56

Dedication to Theophilus

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses andministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellentTheophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God.36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Andthe angel departed from her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[g] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.