The Ministers of God: #WhyLivesMatter

In the aftermath of recent events I feel compelled to share some remarks I gave at a recent memorial for fallen officers. My prayer is that they will bring peace and comfort to the hurting, and solid ground to those whose minds can only find shifting sand.

child-594519_1920 (1)

“I do not think that I could be more honored to have my two little boys in company of so many honorable men and woman who serve this great community with no thought for themselves, only for the people they serve. I pray they look up to, revere, respect and pray for every law enforcement officer who honorably performs their duty and does whatever they can to protect and serve.

As I pondered on what words I could bring this evening my mind kept going back to the question “why did these brave souls do what they did?” To put your life on the line day after day? It certainly could not be for pay, or awards, or any other merit; it must be something more. The conclusion I came to is being an officer is not what they did, it is who they were; just as every man and woman in uniform here today. You joined for essentially the same reason. There is something about you that made you think you could help, that you should serve, that you had a duty.

As a preacher of the gospel I am certain of that reason. The apostle Paul writes to the New Testament church in Rome concerning these ones who have been given the responsibility of enforcing the law. He writes in Romans 13:4 “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.” There are many agencies represented here this evening. Each law enforcement officer having their own commission; by a municipality, by a county, by the state. But I am here to tell you that your greatest commission is by God. The reason you do what you every day; though you may not realize it; is that God has called you to this work.

What has he called you to do? He has called you to minister. In other words, he has called you to help and assist without any thought to personal consequence or reward.

What has God called you minister? He has called you to administer justice; Romans 13:4 continues “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain for he is the minister of God.” It requires a supernatural measure of bravery to confront evil and protect the innocent. While others are obeying the natural response to flee, these men did the only thing they could do; to serve. Because bringing justice is who God created them to be.

 

 

God has called you to minister peace. One of the greatest titles given to you is that of “peace officer”. We live in a tumultuous world; where up is down, in is out, wrong is right. Where those who should be given honor, respect, and praise are spat on, protested against, and shunned. Despite these facts, day in and day out your mission is to resolve conflict, to intervene in disputes, to cut down lawlessness and bring peace to our state, our county, our community, and our homes. Often times this requires sacrifice of your own homes, as John Milton said, “They also serve who stand and wait.” Wives, husbands, children; who willingly give up their loved ones day after day praying for their safe return, so that they could serve others while they stood and waited knowing that to bring peace is who God created them to be.

God has called you to minister love. Love has become too much of a maligned word in our current culture. What is true love? Romans 13:8 sheds light for us, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” As citizens of this world the apostle writes to us and tells us the greatest thing we can do for these ministers of God is love one another. For if you love, Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not lie about another, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, all of this is summed up in saying; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Look around; the greatest human example of loving thy neighbor is suited up in uniforms this evening. When a call comes in of someone who is in their darkest hour, these men and women administer love in the purest of ways. These men we honor tonight and all the officers who have come to the end of watch administered love in the purest and truest of ways. Why?

Because administering love is who God created them to be.

There is a little known story that provides a great deal of insight on how the Lord created police officers. He was into his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?
A peace officer has to be able to run five miles through alleys in the dark, scale walls, enter homes the health inspector wouldn’t touch, and not wrinkle his uniform.
“He has to be able to sit in an undercover car all day on a stakeout, cover a homicide scene that night, canvass the neighborhood for witnesses, and testify in court the next day.
“He has to be in top physical condition at all times, running on black coffee and half-eaten meals. And he has to have six pairs of hands.”
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands… no way.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord, “it’s the three pairs of eyes an officer has to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. One pair that sees through a bulge in a pocket before he asks, “May I see what’s in there, sir?” “Another pair here in the side of his head for his partners’ safety. And another pair of eyes here in front that can look reassuringly at a bleeding victim and say, ‘You’ll be all right ma’am, when he knows it isn’t so.”
“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.” “I can’t,” said the Lord, I’m almost finished “I already have a model that can talk a 250 pound drunk into a patrol car without incident and feed a family of five on a civil service paycheck.”
The angel circled the model of the peace officer very slowly, “Can it think?” she asked.
“You bet,” said the Lord. “It can tell you the elements of a hundred crimes; recite Miranda warnings in its sleep; detain, investigate, search, and arrest a gang member on the street in less time than it takes five learned judges to debate the legality of the stop… and still it keeps its sense of humor.
This officer also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with crime scenes painted in hell, coax a confession from a child abuser, comfort a murder victim’s family, and then read in the daily paper how law enforcement isn’t sensitive to the rights of criminal suspects.” Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the peace officer. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model.”
“That’s not a leak,” said the lord, “it’s a tear.”
“What’s the tear for?” asked the angel.
“It’s for bottled-up emotions, and for fallen comrades.

“You’re a genius,” said the angel.
With a somber look the Lord replied. “I didn’t put it there.”

This story reminds us that no human being is perfect. The word of God declares that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The only perfect one to walk this earth is Jesus Christ. He is our perfect example of being a minister. The apostle John writes in his gospel “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”

Though we feel great pain and a sense of injustice when any peace officer is cut down in the line of duty, and rightfully so; the greatest injustice that has ever occurred is when Jesus Christ laid down his life for the sins of the whole world. He came to bring justice when none could be found, as the prince of Peace he came to bring peace between God and man, and he showed the greatest love when he gave the most precious gift he had. “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his brother.”

This is why we have such great respect and admiration for these ones; because they have showed the greatest of love. They reflect Jesus Christ to us and gain of the title of those “whom the world was not worthy.”

The word of God reminds us the nature of sin is what has brought us here this evening. Sin is what causes human beings to do terrible things to one another and to themselves. It is the reason for authority and rule of law. It is the reason for uniformed officers day after day to keep the peace.

It is the reason that each of us will experience the pain of death. But it does not have to end there, by putting your faith in Jesus Christ each of us can experience the promise of Revelation 21:4 “and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: Behold I make all things new.”

Until that day there will always be a need for the faithful ministers of God to administer justice, peace and love. My prayer for each of you echoes the words penned in memorial for fallen police officer Chris Jones of the Middletown Township Police Department, PA.

Lest We Forget”

I never dreamed it would be me,
My name for all eternity,
Recorded here at this hallowed place,
Alas, my name, no more my face.

“In the line of duty, I hear them say:
My family now the price to pay.
My folded flag stained with their tears;
We only had those few short years.

The badge no longer on my chest,
I sleep now in eternal rest,
My sword I pass to those behind,
And pray they keep this thought in mind.

I never dreamed it would be me,
And with heavy heart and bended knee,
I ask for all here; from the past
Dear God, let my name be the last.

 

We desire justice for every member of this community, we hope for peace for our children and grandchildren, and we pray the love of Christ to reside in ever heart. But until that day;

“Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.”

May God protect every police officer throughout this great nation, and keep them safe while they stand watch for us. God bless you all.”

Remarks for

Fallen Officer Memorial

Ashland County Sheriff’s Office

 

May 12, 2016 5:30PM

ACSO Chaplain Joshua Cehulik

10 Things You Can’t Learn in Bible College

As this year comes to a close, God has been putting something on my heart that I pray will encourage both those looking to enter the ministry as well as those who have recently begun the call of God on their life.

Looking back I can see how the years of preparation to follow God’s call has reaped wonderful rewards. However, like all things in life, some can only be experienced by on the job training. Here are a few of those examples as I close out my sixth year of full-time ministry.

  1. You will be called on to give council to someone who desires to end their own life
    • Sometimes it comes from a family member, close friend, law enforcement, or even the individual themselves. Take time to assess the situation and the individual, if a person is in imminent harm never handle the situation on your own. Develop a file of community resources and mental health professionals. Assist with personal and spiritual counseling and never be afraid to take classes on how to deal with this difficult situation. Remember, the most powerful tool you have is hope, the hope that can only be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. You will experience death first hand
    • You will be called to the bedside of a dying person, and in some cases will be there when they take their final breath in this world. Sometimes family will be present, sometimes not. You have two wonderful tools to take full advantage of; listening and prayer. You will not know what to say, and in most cases that is the right answer. It is the Holy Spirit of God that gives comfort in these seasons of life, pray with the dying, pray with the family, pray in the corner of the room as you listen to friends and family tell stories of the one they love. Pray, listen, Pray.
  3. You will walk into a hospital room as someone receives life-altering news.
    • It might be the word cancer, it might be something else. Realize God is in control and be honest that outcome may not be what we desire. Emphasize that the grace of God is sufficient to bring them through. Now it is time to sit and listen as the individual and family work through and process the information that they’ve been given. Then as stated above, pray, pray, pray.
  4. You will need to comfort a parent who has lost a child or whose child’s life is in danger
    • Whenever children are involved the difficulty of the situation increases one-hundred fold. Now that my wife and I are blessed with two little boys I see even more clearly the love a parent has for their children. The possibility of blaming circumstances on God becomes more likely as pain, bitterness, and anger can fester. Commit many hours of time and effort in the immediate but especially in the weeks and months to come. This could make all the difference.
  5. You will help a couple whose marriage is falling apart
    • These are often the most difficult situations to sort through. There is no doubt that God hates divorce because of the damage that is does to families. Be careful to listen to each person and their grievances. These things rarely happen quickly and are generally a failure over a long period of time to guard the most precious of relationships. It will take time, but the power of the gospel is the ability to restore when it seems impossible and to breath new life into something that has been dead for three days! A marriage that is restored in the power of the love of God is one of the most rewarding things any minister can be involved in.
  6. You will realize the reality of your calling
    • When each of the situations arise that I’ve outlined above, and many more I haven’t experienced; God will use these to solidify His call on your life. The visible ministry that many see pales in comparison to the rewarding work of ministering to those when no one sees.
  7. You will need to develop a close friendship
    • For me, this person is my wife. She is someone who I can always rely one, and will provide me honesty, accountability, and advice whenever I need it. She is understanding of the extra time it takes to minister in these situations, and is always praying for me as we work through it together. None of God’s work in my life could be done without her.DSC_0795
  8. You will need a role model to follow
    • I have been blessed to work alongside some of the finest pastors in the country. These men have had a profound influence on my life and have cultivated a love in me for the ministry. They provide me the room I need to grow, while providing the direction that is necessary to keep on the right track. None of us are a world unto ourselves, and the Christian life is not meant to be lived on an island. Learn from everyone, everything that you can.
  9. You will realize you know nothing.
    • Even as I type I am wondering, What gives you the authority to write this? It is only by the grace of God that I haven’t burned my own life to the ground, let alone minister to others. The gospel has completely changed my life and is the driving force of my passion to help others. Every day I realize I know less than I did the day before.
  10. You will realize that God is all-sufficient
    • This is something we all pay lip service to, but is fully realized in the immediacy of life. When tragedy strikes, and difficult decisions must be made it is only God who can bring us through. I do not have any of the answers, God does.

 

The gospel ministry is a high calling, and is not be taken lightly. I can truly say it is the most special gift I have been given. If you had asked me ten years ago as I began bible college what the ministry would be like, I’d have given very different answers. Now that I look on it ten years later, I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

Giving Praise in the Bad Time

Tags

,

I’m not sure about you, but I can be a worrier. It’s easy to let the cares of this world overwhelm us and cloud our vision. As a Christian I shouldn’t be surprised by this; Jesus promised in John 16:33 that we would have trouble. I’m so glad he didn’t stop there, as he continued he said, “be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

Be of good cheer? Even though I don’t feel like it? The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” You see it is not our circumstances we rejoice in, it is in our Savior. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever and promises never to “leave us or forsake us”.church-and-storm-1366989155Jjh

Consider Paul and Silas in Acts 16 sitting in a Philippians jail, bound and chained for doing the work God had called them to. If anyone deserved to be upset about their circumstances it was these two. However, they chose not to see their circumstances, but to pray and sing praises to God. Through this small act of praise, God brought an earthquake that loosed there bonds and broke open their prison doors. You may not find yourself in physical prison, but in a prison of your own mind, bound by the shackles of your failures. Realize your responsibility is not to praise God once he has broken through, but to praise God for who he is and see your entire view change as the burdens fall away.

An amazing thing happened at the end of the story in Acts 16, Paul and Silas’ praise resulted in the jailer and his entire family believing on Jesus Christ. You see, there is a world full of people out there who need us to take our eyes off of ourselves and show them that there is hope, joy, peace, and rest in Jesus Christ. Maybe you’re in a mess; either one you created or circumstances outside of your control; the only thing to do is look up and praise the Lord. Praise him because of who He is: our Father, our Creator, our Healer, our Sustainer, who is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, all-wise, holy, just, and good. As the hymn-writer put it;

Count your blessings,
Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you,
What the Lord has done.

Ps 100:4 “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Perspective

Tags

Psalm 17:3
Thou hast visited me in the night”

Psalm 17:15
I shall be satisfied when I awake, with thy likeness”

It is all to easy to become overwhelmed with the cares of this life; just as the waves of the ocean  erode the shoreline, sometimes the waves of life can erode our soul. Although this prayer of David is recorded for us in Psalm 17; the scripture don’t give us any historical insight as to what is going on in David’s life that prompts this prayer.

A valuable lesson can be learned from this; we never know what someone is going through at any given moment. Lately it has seemed that for me, any step forward has resulted in two steps backwards. Every time I’d gain a little traction it seemed like I’d lose my footing right before reaching the prize. I’ll spare you the details, but the things that were causing me so much concern are temporal and tangible.

Sitting in a church office on a daily basis can help give a little perspective (everyone should do it for at least a day). This morning as I’m preparing the worship music for this coming Sunday, setting schedules, and studying for my Bible lesson I overheard a conversation that completely changed my heart. A father who just 3 months before; as he drops of his monthly delivery, told us with excitement that he and his wife were expecting a child. This time around his countenance was visibly down as he shared with us the loss of this child that he and his wife were so joyfully expecting. Three things happened in that moment; conviction for my selfishness and the desire to minister to that man in his time of need. Most importantly, a renewed appreciation for the intangible things of life.2014-05-16 07.26.02-1

Psalm 17:14 tell us we may fill our bellies with all the treasures of this world; but at the end of this life we will leave all of our substance behind.

Sometimes money is tight, emergencies happen, contractors don’t keep there word or finish on time, people let you down, and just when you think you’ve got it all put together, the whole things falls apart. For me, the things that matter in life are the eternal, keeping my eyes focused on the central cause for satisfaction in this life. Jesus Christ.

I’ll go home today and hug my wife, and kiss my two little boys on the head and we’ll go play in the back yard. If the whole things comes crashing down tomorrow, that’s okay; because I have a new perspective.

A Young Man’s Request

Tags

image

I ask in humility to the older and wiser among us,
Show us Christ,
Despite the differences that engulf us,
Show us Christ,
With the influence you’ve been given, Show us Christ,
Woven into every speaking, teaching, preaching,
Show us Christ,
Resist the urge to motivate by fear,
Show us Christ,
Rather than sell us your brand of Christianity,
Show us Christ,
Reveal the cross we each must carry, Show us Christ,
Let us see your pain and know you’re weary,
Show us Christ,
That we might take up the timeless mantle and heed the cry,
Show us Christ.

Joshua Cehulik

Following the Father’s Example

An encouraging devotional from “In Touch” ministries I hope will encourage you.

Do you have a strong relationship with your children?

The way we initially think about God has much to do with how we were parented – especially by our father. What image of the Lord are you portraying?

Many men struggle in their role as dads because their own fathers were either absent – physically or emotionally – or poor examples. But regardless of what a person experienced in the past, the best thing any parent can do is imitate God the Father. Yet how do we know who He really is?

We get our best glimpse of what the heavenly Father is like by looking at His Son. Speaking with the disciples, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by Me… He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:6,9). Not only is Christ our path to relationship with God; he is also the way we come to know the Father’s true character.

When we look at the Savior’s life, what do we see? He was merciful, patient, gentle, compassionate, kind, and full of goodness toward all people. Jesus healed the sick, provided for needs, and offered forgiveness – regardless of the offense (Matt. 14:14-21; Luke 23:34). But in love, He didn’t hesitate to discipline others when correction was required.

More than a solid education or material possessions, your child’s greatest need is for a role model of devotion to God through prayer, Bible reading, and holy living. If you make knowing and following the heavenly Father your first priority, you won’t have to worry about what kind of parent you will be.

Charles Stanley

The Old Man at Tim Hortons

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrews 13:2

I was in my late teens finishing up high school about to begin college. Working third shift as a baker at my local donut and coffee shop in Tonawanda New York. As I began my shift around 10:00 pm a kind old man walked in and began to order.

I had gotten to know this man who always ordered a black coffee with a cake donut on china with a senior discount. Couldn’t have been more than two dollars at the time. He had a kind face accented by the red sweater he always wore. We would strike up a conversation about trivial things as he would patiently wait for his order.

One day while working my shift, I told the old man that as I was preparing to leave home and head off to school for ministry. He expressed the usual remarks of being sad to see me go and that he was encouraged to see a young man heading into ministry. It was what happened the next day that would touch me very deeply.

11485763673_07b7b66e1b_mHe came in, ordered his coffee and cake donut on china with a senior discount; handed me the two dollars and shook my hand. When I pulled back my hand there was a twenty dollar bill. I was taken back a little and politely refused; I couldn’t possibly receive this generous gift. He kindly and firmly restated that he would like to have a small part in what God would do in my life.

I don’t remember the mans name, but I’ve never forgotten his act of kindness. I would go back to work at the local donut shop in between semesters, but I never saw the old man again.

Life is made up of these small investments, people who’ve taken the time to influence in what might seem the most minuscule of ways. These are our angels, even if we are unaware of their presence.

Just like the old man at Tim Hortons.

Photo by Rudolf Vlček

Admiring the Burning Bush

The angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” (Exod. 3:2)

When Moses saw that bush, he was amazed! It was a phenomenon – something that immediately attracted his attention. Here was a bush that burned and burned and burned, and went on burning. As far as he could see, it could burn on for eternity, and he could not help but compare himself with that bush! In his heart he must have said something like this: “I’ve never seen a bush like that before. I’m not like that bush! Forty years ago I burned myself out in a heap of ashes, and I have been a heap of ashes for forty years since. There is something unusual about that bush, something very unique! It must be a very wonderful bush!”

And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” (Exod 3:3)

Aroused within his heart there was a holy curiosity, and he did a very wise thing – he made intelligent inquiry and, in consequence, he made a very wonderful discovery!

We are tutored in these days to hero worship. in every walk of life we become “fans”, and that is not less true in the area of Christian activity. There are those in whose lives there is manifest evidence of the mighty unction and power of God. They are transparently genuine. The hand of God is upon them. They speak with an authority that God honors. Lives are transformed. Those spiritually dead are raised to life again. Defeated, helpless, useless, barren Christians are transformed into useless vehicles of divine life. Wherever they go it seems that there is a touch of glory about their path, and we admire them and applaud – but we stand back as though this were to be the monopoly of the few, as though they have a special call upon the grace of God, and as though this were something not for the common run of men. We say in our hearts, “There is a bush that burns! I would like to be a bush like that, but I am just a heap of ashes!” And that is as far as it gets.

fire-in-the-fields-1428932912qbm

You discuss the burning bush with others! You admit that it is an amazing thing, and maybe you invite others to come and look at the phenomenon, but you have resigned yourself to be nothing more than what you are – a heap of ashes! It has never dawned on you that you could be anything different, so you have to make the best of a bad job in your own little desert! You resign yourself to sit on the balcony among the spectators, just to be average, a spiritual nonentity!

This is the attitude that Paul sought above everything else to avoid in those of whom it had been his priviledge to lead to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the significance of his words to the Philippians when he wrote,

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12c – 13)

To the Philippians, who were tempted to lean upon Paul as their spiritual crutch, as though God had a particular interest in him that he did not have in them, he said, in so many words, “All that God has given me, He has given to you! The Lord Jesus Christ who dwells in my humanity is the Lord Jesus Christ who dwells in your humanity. What I have, you have! What I can be by the grace of God, you can be by the grace of God! Work out your own salvation! It is yours as much as mine. It is God, not Paul the apostle, who works in you, both to will and do of His good pleasure. recognize that all the illimitable resources that God has vested in me in the person of His own dear Son are the same illimitable resources that he has vested in you!

This is the message of the Bible, that God has chosen the weak and the base, the nothing and the things that are not to confound the things that are. All God demands of a man is his availability – to be what man was created to be, the human vehicle of the divine life, inhabited by God for God. that God may be Himself – His size in terms of what you are on earth, in your availability to Him. What you are is totally irrelevant – nationality, money, education, personality; if only you will recognize the principle that it is God that works in you, to will and to do of His good pleasure.

The ultimate source of divine activity in all spiritual life is God Himself – “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27c)

– Major W. Ian Thomas –
The Saving Life of Christ
Published by Zondervan 1961

Cultivating a Growing Friendship

Came across this article in my inbox from Focus on the Family. It’s geared for pastors on maintaining a good relationship with their spouse. I think it is great advice for anyone who is trying to balance work and family life.

Hope it encourages you!

CULTIVATING A GROWING FRIENDSHIP

By Jamaal Williams

The weight of pastoring can sometimes feel like bench pressing 1,000 pounds! Even though we’re told to “cast our cares on Christ,” we often struggle to do it. As a result, we can find ourselves bringing work home. If we aren’t careful, our marriage will be affected and begin to feel more like a business arrangement than a friendship. This experience can last for years, for months, or for a day. However long it lasts, this isn’t what God desires for us. While He extends grace to us during these times, His desire is that our heart be intimately connected to our spouse’s.

God has joined two together as one not to be business partners but covenant friends to the end. God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:24).” It’s in this “holding fast” that friendships are cultivated, but it most certainly requires purposeful effort! In fact, if you’re like me, cultivating a growing friendship with your spouse takes prayer and intentionality. Here are some simple suggestions to keep your friendship with your spouse a top priority:

9816-a-couple-walking-on-the-beach-under-a-cloudy-sunset-pv

Work on your marriage at home and work at work!

Nothing can steal a day off like not really having the day off. Returning an email here or there, answering a couple of phone calls, and consulting various commentaries about a passage you’re not supposed to work through until tomorrow, silently draws you away from your family. Drawing boundaries for work and rest is critical.

After a long day at the office or a challenging counseling conversation, before you go home, read verses like Ephesians 5:22-32, Philippians 2:3-11, or 1 Peter 3:7 to help you unplug and redirect your heart toward serving and loving your wife. This will only take a couple of minutes and will remind you of how God can empower you to love your wife! Also, it may be helpful to turn off distracting noises and alerts from your devices while conversing with your wife.

Spend time building spiritual intimacy.

It’s important that we connect with our wives in every area. Perhaps none is more important than spiritual intimacy in a pastor’s marriage. In Ephesians 5, Paul exhorts men to wash their wives with the water of the word. This is a calling for all Christian men. If we’re honest, as pastors we can easily neglect this area. While sharing our sermons with our spouse or even listening to her critique us after we preach may help cultivate spiritual intimacy, it’s probably not the best way. For my wife and I, sharing a similar Bible reading plan together helps us have easy flowing conversations about the Word, whether over dinner or while we do chores.

Another way to cultivate spiritual intimacy is to pray together. Perhaps, nothing unveils the heart like honest prayer requests. Take a few minutes when you get home to pray for the difficulties and blessings of the day. You will be surprised how this can help you both to relax.

My final suggestion for cultivating spiritual intimacy with your wife is to watch a spiritually-enriching Bible study series together. Focus on the Family has a great one, The Family Project, which can get you started.

Have fun together.

Every pastoral search committee should ask potential pastors this question: What do you and your wife like to do for fun?

Pastors, it’s hard to serve the Lord joyfully when you’re exhausted and your wife is frustrated. Resting well and dating our wives takes faith. When we’re too busy to have fun and laugh together, it will show in the way we preach and minister to others. Instead of being lighthearted and hope-filled we come off “zapped.” Most importantly, the person we once viewed as the woman sent from God drifts farther away from us.

We owe it to our committed and beautiful wives to give them an enjoyable marriage and to show them that we love them more than the church that we pastor. We can do this by planning picnics, walking in scenic places, having game nights, entertaining couples we enjoy being around, sharing funny experiences throughout our day, or doing whatever makes her smile.

Have stimulating conversations.

Part of what makes a friendship enjoyable is great conversation. Friends can talk for hours, and it only feels like minutes. Our goal in marriage should be to have our spouse as our favorite conversation partner. This takes hard work because once you’ve been married for a while you begin to think that you know what a person will say or feel about a situation. However, thoughts such as these hinder us from communicating with our spouse and growing with them. Even if we do know where they stand in regard to a subject, there’s nothing like hearing them say it in their own unique way! Bookmark articles, talk radio conversations, and trending news topics, and talk about them with your spouse.

Get away alone.

Throughout the year we must leave daily distractions and cleave to our wives in solitude! As I shared this list with my wife, this point stood out to her the most. She said our two-day and week-long getaways without the kids grew our friendship the most, and I agree. Time away from the kids, commentaries, and the everyday grind of ministry can breathe life back into your marriage. If our ministry will collapse because we took a week off to spend it with our wives, then we should re-evaluate the ministry because it’s probably taking precedence over our marriage.

There is an old saying, “Love is friendship set on fire.” I couldn’t agree more. As we seek to encourage and pursue our wives, may the Lord give us grace to love her like Christ loves the church and set an example for the flock.

Copyright © 2015 by Jamaal Williams

Struggles and Songs

Psalm 13:5 “My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation”

William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) an 18th century English poet and hymn writer (1731-1800), struggled with recurring bouts of depression throughout his life. Perhaps that’s why his hymns still touch us deeply during times when our life seems to be spinning out of control and we desperately want to trust God.

One of Cowper’s best-known hymns, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” contain these encouraging words:

Ye fearful saints, fresh with courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.stockvault-sunset116418

We often imagine that the triumhpal songs of faith were penned by people who had already overcome struggles. But the Bible’s songbook – Psalms – reminds us that the anguished cries of “How long, O Lord?”Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” sometimes occur in almost the same breath as “My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing o the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:1,5-6).

In every struggle – mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual – our challenge is to move from the fear of being overwhlemed to the confidence that God has overcome. Cowper didn’t find it easy, but he always found that God was greater than he had ever imagined.

Facing clouds today? Take courage! Your greatest praise to God may be sung in the darkest days of your life.

– David McCasland