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Saying Goodbyes!

Pastor Andrew SchankRecently, I had the unpleasant task of having to say my “goodbyes” to a great team of school bus drivers and para professionals at Blair Community Schools of Blair, Nebraska. It was even harder to share the news of my leaving to the students I transported to and from school each day. Due to stressful demands of my time, I felt it necessary to free up my schedule somewhat and try to go one direction each day rather than two. Indeed, it has been a tremendous privilege to serve the Blair Community for almost four school years!

“Goodbyes” Are Difficult To Communicate!

Why is it so hard to say our “goodbyes”? Whether we are speaking of the arenas of the workplace and church or of moving across town or the State, saying, “Goodbye!” is very difficult for some people. You can know that someone is making a change in their employment, or in where they reside, but the finality of the word “Goodbye” reaches down into our stomach and ties it into knots.

We are quite comical sometimes, aren’t we? We can tell our spouse or children, “Goodbye!” then leave on a trip or go to work, and that seven letter word doesn’t seem to rattle us as much. However, if we convey that word to someone whom we will not see for quite a while or possibly not be able to work closely with again, then our emotions take a roller coaster ride of monumental proportions.

Coping With The “Goodbyes”…

I find it extremely difficult to say the word “goodbye”. In fact, I was not going to say much, if anything at all, about my leaving Blair Community Schools to my co-workers. Of course, the management needed to know. I did work a notice, but I tried to keep things quiet. However, I was reminded of something by a dear friend at the Bus Barn on my last day of work. She agreed with me that it was hard to say goodbye, but she also related to me that people would like an opportunity to say it! WOW! Call me a nut if you want to, but her statement was quite profound.

Saying our “goodbyes” is very liberating. It allows every human being an outlet for their emotional stress related to the severance or change of a relationship. That is not to say that every time we utilize the aforementioned seven letter word that we are not going to facilitate relationships when we invoke it. It does, however, give us an opportunity to express how we feel about the change in dynamic.

The Ramifications…

“Goodbyes” are not always final, but they can be. Funerals, for example, are very sad because of finality… depending upon what you believe about God’s Word. For a child of God, the “goodbye” at a funeral is not so tragic when the person who has passed away was also a child of God. The “goodbye” in that case is an, “until we meet again!” When a lost sinner takes their last breath and dies, it is very tasking for God’s children! The “goodbye” there is very final!

The ramifications of the word “goodbye” are quite complex sometimes. Conclusions are drawn, decisions are made, lifestyles are changed and a wide range of emotions are experienced. People can rejoice or they can be deeply hurt by using the word in question.

Jesus And “Goodbyes”…

(John 14:1-6) “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (KJV)

Jesus dealt with “goodbyes” with His disciples in John chapters 14-16. Our Lord had conveyed the fact that He would be leaving them. His words resonated then and still echo with you and I today! “Let not your heart be troubled…” coming from the lips of the Savior seems to slow the winds of the stormy tempest that can rage when “goodbyes” are stated.

So What’s The Big Deal?

It is important to share our thoughts and feelings in a constructive way. When we do not say our “goodbyes”, for example, we can do ourselves and those around us an injustice. After my recent experience with my friends at Blair Community Schools, I want to encourage each of us to be sure that we use the word “goodbye” carefully and meaningfully. After all, it could be very final!!!

 

The Lonely Side Of Ministry: Undesirable, But Fruitful!

Pastor Andrew SchankMinistry, like South African diamonds, has many wonderful and unique facets to it. When an experienced jeweler holds a diamond up to the light and examines its core with a magnifying eyepiece, hard cold reality is unabridged. He or she sees the diamond for what it is. What may have seemed beautiful at a distance is sometimes not so pretty up close and personal.

In nearly 23 years of ministry, I have seen ministry from both perspectives. Volumes can be written about the glamor of some aspects of ministry… and rightly so. However, novelty wears away when one involves them-self deep into the service of the Lord Jesus Christ! Well meaning authors try to share in a few paragraphs or pages what took a lifetime for God’s servants to accomplish in ministry. Often, too much is said about so-called accomplishments, and too little is said about the staleness and loneliness that accompanies devoted service in the Lord’s work. We may do ourselves a grave injustice by promoting such picturesque snapshots of ministry.

Don’t misunderstand, ministry is absolutely rewarding in every facet! Nothing takes the place of going to sleep at night reminiscing of the opportunities God gave you that day. Even in the darkest of circumstances, ministry is fruitful! This precept must not be overlooked! The Law of the Harvest is immutable!

(Galatians 6:9) “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (KJV)

While there are many awesome parts of ministry which I would like to comment on, there is an often overlooked and misunderstood side of ministry that needs to be pondered. Of course, this intentionally bypassed aspect of ministry of which I write is that of loneliness. It can KILL you!

What Is Loneliness?

Loneliness is mostly a feeling that finds its way into our hearts like rising water creeping into the basement of a home along a flood prone area. As a servant of the Lord, you cannot always choose the best scenario in which to engage yourself. With that comes the possibility for the dampness of loneliness to seep into your soul. You basically feel that you are ALONE and nobody else is with you. In spite of the fact that a pastor can have a church full of people supporting him, he can FEEL alone.

Loneliness: A Double Agent!

Loneliness is a double agent of sorts. Used by both God and Satan, it will make its debut sooner or later in EVERY ministry and in EVERY minister’s life! Satan will certainly try and use this “negative” aspect of ministry to discourage and defeat the sincerest of God’s laborers. On the other hand, our Heavenly Father will use this same difficulty as an opportunity to refine His dedicated and devoted servants.

There Is Help?

Throughout the Scriptures a minister will find help, comfort, encouragement and renewed vigor in coping with loneliness in ministry! From Moses, to John on the isle of Patmos, and everywhere in between, you can learn how to continue to serve in the midst of loneliness. Whether the servant of the Lord is a missionary, evangelist, pastor/teacher, Sunday school teacher, Deacon, or just a devoted member of a local assembly trying to be faithful to share the gospel and live a clean life… loneliness can be overcome!

Consider the description of John the Baptist from the gospel accounts. He was a “voice” not “voices”, and he lived alone in desolation. Jesus was tempted in a desert… alone and away from family and friends. Over and over again, you find our Lord getting by Himself in a solitary place. In both John the Baptist’s life as well as that of Jesus Christ, it can be clearly understood that loneliness accompanies ministry. The absence of people, is both needful and necessary at times.

Conclusion

(Psalms 91:1) “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (KJV)

Whether loneliness is a result of demanding ministry or simply a result of the physical absence of people, there is one common denominator… our fellowship with the Holy Spirit of God! Loneliness will dim of the most zealous firebrand of God. If we do not resort to the promises of God, and the shelter of the prayer closet, then we will not know what it means to “abide under that shadow of the Almighty” amidst the trying North winds of loneliness!

Much more can be stated about loneliness, but it suffices to point out that if one is serving in the midst of loneliness, then he or she is NOT ALONE! The lonely individual is NOT the only person who has faced or is facing loneliness. You can be the only person in the room and the room can get crowded! One must allow God to refine them of the dross that can only be burnt off in the crucible of loneliness. God will NEVER leave us nor will He forsake us!

(Hebrews 13:5) “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (KJV)

Commitment: The Missing Characteristic In 21st Century Christianity!

Pastor Andrew SchankThousands upon thousands of books, periodicals and newspaper clippings lay on the shelves, line the racks and are filed away in libraries worldwide which contain the written record of men and women who left a legacy of COMMITMENT for any inquisitive mind to ponder. With the advent of the internet, many more doors for the opportunistic reader are available. With such grandiose venues filled to capacity and open to the masses, which would rival any Olympic arena, one could surmise that the larger than life personalities of yesteryear would be studied for their accomplishments and failures more than they actually are!

It is sad to report that many present day educational, political, social leaders increasingly fail this present generation with their focus being placed on the sensual and the temporal and not on the lasting character traits which have served to catapult societies around the globe for centuries. Religious leaders have littered the information highway with numerous scandals, and irrefutable evidence of their lack of moral bearings and broken moral compass. It is for certain that many of the household names of the last 2,000 years were not godly and righteous individuals, but many were! Each name that is recorded in history leaves us an example for good or for bad.

When one ponders the realms of Christendom today, he/she is left devoid of many substantive examples of committed Christians. Few godly examples exist for contemporary onlookers to admire for the quality of COMMITMENT with respect to Biblical Christianity. There are many reasons for this problem. One, the world system is not going to thrust many into the “godly lime-light”. Two, the godly character trait of COMMITMENT does not sell newspapers, nor does it have much curb appeal. Three, history is still being written and the jury is still out on the legacies of many popular Christians today. Each of these reasons are valid and easily understood.

If you look at this dilemma from the corner of Main Street and Church Street USA, then you will have to face the fact that the primary cause for the lack of interest in the character trait of COMMITMENT with respect to Biblical Christianity is found by looking into the mirror! The average Christian does not get excited about being a committed child of God because it is not accomplished very easily and it usually carries a stigma that few want to identify with. Very few shine brightly as committed Christians and with so little light, many have grown accustomed to the darkness of self-serving ambitions.

For many, COMMITMENT is a term used to describe how an athlete came from unfortunate and meager circumstances to fame because of their determination to play a particular sport. For others, COMMITMENT is the term used to describe how a young man or woman came from the wrong side of the tracks to get the proper education and make their mark on the business world. Few really grasp the fact that COMMITMENT is more that just something we read about concerning the flavor of the month which the media outlets regurgitate in their hourly segments and plaster on their “Who’s Who” in the Sunday paper.

(1 Corinthians 4:1-2) “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (KJV)

COMMITMENT is a character trait that we see throughout the pages of our Holy Bible. From the difficult circumstances Jacob endured so he could marry the woman of his dreams, to the passionate leadership of Moses to bring God’s people from Egyptian bondage into the Promised Land, to the Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah, who could only speak God’s truth to a backslidden king, to the Gospel accounts of the COMMITMENT of Jesus Christ to carry His cross to Golgotha’s hill, to the persistence of the Apostle Paul to keep preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles of the Roman Empire, one can encourage themselves and learn of the need for such COMMITMENT in our day!

While the Word of God is the best place to read of what kind of COMMITMENT our churches need today, this trait is easily learned by it being modeled before others. When folks are divided in their pursuits each week, and choose to participate in activities at the same time their church family gets together to worship God, then these individuals fail to be an example of a committed Christian. The truth is that COMMITMENT is a missing ingredient in 21st century Christianity! In place of COMMITMENT, many model carnality, idolatry, apathy, and a host of other worldly and sinful vices.

(Matthew 6:24) “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (KJV)

What is it going to take for more of God’s people to make the decision to be more committed to the Lord? Many of these sames folks are not ignorant of what COMMITMENT is, they are just committed to the wrong person! The Apostle Paul spoke of some people who “addicted” themselves to the ministry. (1 Corinthians 16:15) Our churches need servants of the Lord like Paul wrote about! Jesus, in what many refer to as, “The Sermon on the Mount” stated, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” In other words, you cannot be committed to the Lord while being committed to other things. Duties never conflict! Each of us have many responsibilities and we must prioritize them. If we are committed Christians, then our priorities will reflect that!

It is with great humility that I implore each soul who reads this post to take a moment and examine yourself in light of the Scriptures. Do you need to be saved by God’s grace? Do you know if you died right now that you would be in Heaven with Jesus? If not, please consider what the Bible has to say about your situation. CLICK HERE to learn more or CONTACT ME and I will be glad to help you. If you are saved, are you a committed Christian or are your priorities diametrically opposed to what they should be? Does any ole thing keep you from being faithful to attend church faithfully? Do your friends have too much sway over your decision making? Have you allowed your flesh to rule your life in place of the Holy Spirit? God WILL help you if you will be willing to repent!

Authenticity?

Pastor Andrew SchankAt the time of the Civil War, (a.k.a. War Between The States) nearly one third of the currencies negotiated were counterfeit. Can you imagine that? This problem was, and still is a huge issue! One of the contributing factors which led to the proliferation of so many fake notes was the numerous state banks who designed and printed their own variety of currency. The following quote is taken from the U.S. Secret Service’s website…

At that time, there were approximately 1,600 state banks designing and printing their own notes. Each note carried a different design, making it difficult to distinguish the 4,000 varieties of counterfeits from the 7,000 varieties of genuine notes.

According to the United States Secret Service the need for a more streamlined and regulated currency was needed. Once the national currency was adopted 1863, it too, became so inundated with counterfeit bills that there was a need to create the Secret Service to enforce currency laws and help suppress widespread counterfeiting. Since July 5, 1865, citizens of the United States have benefited from the dedicated efforts of those in the Secret Service who seek to keep our currency authentic.

Each of us intuitively know that our monies must be THE REAL THING if we are to be able to purchase the necessary items our families need each month. While we may be cognoscente of the need for genuine currency, many of God’s children are lacking in their discernment for the need to be an AUTHENTIC CHRISTIAN! That’s right! Many of us may look like the real thing, but upon closer examination we reveal our deviance.

There are several reasons why this happens in our life at times. Sin, for example, leaves its staining mark on our testimonies. Though God willingly forgives us on the merits of His Son, Jesus Christ, we still have to deal with the ramifications of our rebellious actions.

Sometimes, our lack of authenticity comes from our adopting a standard for living which is contrary to God’s Word. For sure, anytime we do such a thing, we will not be THE REAL THING! Our friend’s ideas, though trendy and novel, are not always the best practice for the dedicated Christian!

Another reason we become hypocritical in our walk with God is due to our lack of love for God. Much can be written about this detail, but it can be seen clearly in our commitment level. If my love for my wife and family is authentic, then my commitment to them will be vividly portrayed. Let’s put it another way. If I am authentic with my family, then they can trust me. We can grow in our love for each other. Our commitment level will increase; reflecting in our behavior and attitudes toward one another. Thus… there will be no question as to the genuineness of our love for God if we are committed to Him.

Could it be that AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY is what is missing in your life? Have you let the apathy and callousness of carnal Christians rub off on you? Are you more concerned about the temporal pleasures and plentiful forms of entertainment the world has to offer than you are about your faithfulness and commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ?

Volumes have been written on how to reach the youth of our day, but genuine heartfelt Christianity is what should be our focal point. Authenticity is what the Millennials need to see in our walk with God. Counterfeit, hypocritical, and shallow spirituality is what is driving the youth of today from our churches. It is not the old fashioned music & hymns that is driving them away, nor is it the lack of media use in the corporate worship service. The simple truth is that most of us are not as authentic as we think we are!

May God give each of us, who claim to be saved by His awesome grace, more of a passion for a committed and authentic walk with Him. May we quit settling for the counterfeit, and wholly embrace the integrity of God and His Holy, Inerrant, Infallible & Divinely Preserved Word!

Be Still!

Pastor Andrew SchankAs a little boy, my mother would often tell me to, “Be Still!” No, her admonition was not always in a tender and delicate tone, but it was always very clear. I never had any doubt about what it was I was supposed to do. More than likely, you have a similar story to tell. From a child, each of us know that there are times when we should put everything down and BE STILL!

The Holy Spirit of God conveys a similar thought to each of us in Psalm 46:10. The Scriptures states, “Be still, and know that I am God:…” With the entire context of the particular Psalm in mind, we understand this verse teach us that regardless of circumstances and surroundings every child of God should pause and reflect upon the fact that He, God Himself, is on His righteous throne. Make no mistake about it… He will be exalted and He is in charge!

Recently, I was smitten by this truth as I was driving to the Post office in our little town along the Missouri River here in Eastern Nebraska. It was the morning rush, just after the morning bells rang to announce the start of the school day. People were hurrying along trying to beat the traffic light so they could jockey for the best position to negotiate their leave of the downtown area as they headed for their place of employment. It hit me. I mean it really hit me! Everyone is in such a hurry doing this and that. Not just in the context of dropping their children off at their neighborhood school, but in many other areas of life. We are just so busy!

That cold Winter morning my Heavenly Father brought this verse to my mind as I observed the frantic traffic behavior and as I was contemplating my priorities of the day. He seemed to say to me, “Andrew, slow down! The compulsion to get things done is over rated! Be still and KNOW that I am God!” No, I did not hear an audible voice, but if I had, it would not have been any clearer.

The truth is that we are often consumed with the deception of pomp and circumstance. Much of our daily routine is nothing more than fluff. Yet, we think that the fluff is somehow important and necessary for us to accomplish our daily priorities. Couple that with the battles of our life and life seems to be a whirlwind.

Think about it… we all know how important our personal devotion time with God is, yet we seem to allow ourselves to get caught up in the winds of the non-essential. Our storms of life could be better weathered if we would BE STILL and calmly reflect upon the character and power of God! Nothing is more sweet than watching God calm the storm as He speaks to our heart from His Infallible Word!

I challenge each of us to BE STILL and KNOW, that is, to ponder and know by observation, reflection and experience that God is in control. He will be a refuge for our souls if we will allow Him to be. Each day that we are privileged to walk God’s Real Estate, may we take meaningful time to read the Holy Word of God. May we gaze into each verse and ponder its ramifications. May we allow God’s Word to temper our soul for the day. May we avail ourselves of the greatest wireless connection known to our generation… PRAYER! May each of us step back into the reality that God Almighty is, in fact, Almighty and that He is our refuge!

(Psalms 46:1-11) “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.” (KJV)