Author Archives: lrbartel

The “human side” of the ministry

I just love it when we get a glimpse of the human side of Paul, the great apostle. There are several passages in Scripture that give us a window into his heart – his emotions – not simply his great theological head.

2 Corinthians does that… but there are others. I just finished reading one in 2 Timothy 4 that is filled with the “personal side” of Paul. It’s a passage that anyone who has ever been involved in the pleasure and pain – the good and bad – the encouraging and the frustrating side of pastoral ministry would understand and identify with.

I’m going to quote Paul’s own words at length… don’t rush past them. Pause and reflect on the feelings of a true spiritual leader that they represent… BUT whatever you do finish with Paul’s last paragraph – a wonderful, faith-filled affirmation!!! Here goes…

“Timothy, do your best to come to me quickly…

“…for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.

“Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.

“Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

“I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

“Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.”

Did you feel both the pleasure and pain in Paul’s words – the love and loneliness – as he sought to fulfill his calling and do the Lord’s work (even from prison)?

But now Paul’s ringing, faith-filled affirmation in spite of it all! …

“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles [the nations] might hear it! I was delivered from the lion’s mouth! The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom! To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (From 2 Timothy 4:9-18 NIV)

Listen, I’ve just got to tell you – as I seek to do the Lord’s work and fulfill his calling on my life, I want to be like Paul – fully human, but also filled with confidence and faith – persistent, prevailing faith in God!

Just a Dream?

We wake up with a start and say… “Aw it was just a dream! But something tells us it was more than that – what we just experienced was profound – deeply significant – we won’t soon forget it!

It’s happened to me on several occasions… not many, but several! I remember them – I’ve reflected on their significance – I believe God was speaking to me through those dreams! Ever happen to you?

It happened to Solomon! The account of his dream is in your Bible… Powerful! Profound!! Life and destiny changing!!!

Here it is… (from 1 Kings 3 in your Bible)

“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream. And God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’” [Now that will blow your mind! Experiencing something like that is easily dismissed… “I was just dreaming – it’s just a dream!” … But God was in it! God was speaking to Solomon!]

Dreaming or not, Solomon responded… “Lord, my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen – a great people… So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of Yours?” [I mean, it appears Solomon answered God in his dream! Was he still dreaming? Remember God was in it … it was more than “just a dream!”]

And here was God’s response…

“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.’ Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.”

Just a dream you say… But it was a “God-dream” – God was in it – and God fulfilled it! In fact, the Bible says, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else…” (from 1 Kings 4:29-34 NIV)

So “It’s just a dream” you say… Listen God may be speaking to you through that dream! Don’t easily dismiss it! Weigh it, consider it, pray about it, check it out and respond to it with faith-obedience… and if God was speaking His will to you through it, believe it! … And watch and see what He will do!

Lessons learned from doing a jigsaw puzzle…

My wife, Sharon, and I are no different than most of you… COVID-19 has forced us to do a few things to pass the time while we’ve been staying close to home. One of them has been doing a few jigsaw puzzles… and believe it or not, we’ve learned some important spiritual lessons while we’ve struggled to put the puzzles together!

We purchased one jigsaw of Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park, in our home state of Montana, that was especially challenging…

Here are some of the spiritual lessons we learned… (And may I suggest you read and reflect on 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:1-16 and 1 Peter 4:10-11 as Scriptural support for many of the lessons learned.)

1. Every piece is important if the picture of the beautiful landscape is to be completed… the shapes may be different and the colors varied (even those with slight differences) – but all are important! And so it is in the Church – the “Body of Christ” – all are important, all are essential, if we are to represent Jesus Christ without distortion in our world.

2. Recognizing the difference between the pieces and appreciating what they contribute is an important key to successfully completing a jigsaw puzzle. And it is no different in the Church – the “Body of Christ!” If we are to complete the beautiful picture of who Christ is and what He has accomplished, the differences among us (as well as our similarities) must be acknowledged and appreciated – differences in background, culture, race, gender, gifts… and I could go on – all are important.

3. Our puzzle was on a card table in one of the rooms of our home. We had to be vigilant – there was a time or two, or three, or four, that a piece of the puzzle slipped from the table on to the floor – and there I was on my hands and knees searching the carpet for the fallen piece. In the Church we can afford to be no less vigilant! Every member of “the Body of Christ” is important to our Lord! As His faithful servants, we must do our best not to lose even one member of the Body! He, “the Good Shepherd,” searches for “the one lost sheep!” until He find them – so should we (cp. Matthew 18:10-14)!

4. Sharon and I fumbled around a lot on this puzzle… it wasn’t the easiest by any means to put together. Human spiritual leaders, even the very gifted, do a lot of fumbling around as we seek to represent Christ through the Church in our world! But not Christ! He knows where every piece fits and we are at our best the more we consult Him and let Him lead us. I don’t know how many times I grabbed the box that the puzzle came in to see what the finished product would look like and where a piece might fit.

5. And finally… you NEVER want a missing piece to mar the beauty of the picture on a jigsaw puzzle! To Sharon and my dismay, we had one piece missing (see where the arrow points on the pic). When Christ is involved – when His Lordship is acknowledged – when He leads there will be NO MISSING PIECES! When all is said and done and we, the Church (and each individual in it) stand before Him in Heaven the picture will be complete! The church in Philippi was given this inspired assurance from the Lord… “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in [or among] you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ!” (Philippians 1:6)

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