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  • sonnyholmes

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Thirty-four years ago Harriet and I decided Friday would be my day off. Back then many of my ministry friends reserved Monday as a day away from the rigors of ministry. But, after active Sundays, Monday was a down day for me. We decided Friday would be the best day to step away from the usual routines for personal rest, leisure, and family time. There were occaional adjustments for emergencies, weddings, and church functions. But, Friday was the day!

As we adjusted to that schedule, we had to learn about Saturdays too. When I was a banker and hospital financial administrator, Saturdays were the yard of the month club, college football, time out with friends, and all the other routine, necessary motions of a day off---household chores, errands, car maintenance, groceries, laundry, etc. . After being called to a local church we had to realign Saturdays and learn the rhythm of church life. Saturday became the preparation day, and not in the way most people think. Most of my sermon and teaching preparation was always completed on Thursdays. The Saturday preparation grid was more personal. We learned to lay low on Saturdays, to calibrate the day to prepare us physically and emotionally for the Lord's Day.

Suddenly, thirty-four years later I'm retired and everyday is Saturday. Now, we're un-learning the habits developed in thirty-four years of church ministry, and re-learning the metrics of a totally new life schedule. One of the most recent un-learnings has been adjusting my personal relationship to the clock, calculator, and calendar (three points, wouldn't you know?). As an achiever, those three handy tools were the stuff of every day. You know, I still wear a watch. But I haven't used a calculator or calendar since October 31. In retrospect, I wish I had learned separation from these tyrants years earlier.

At the center of this re-learning is a constant: the Sabbath. Now, I'm no deep theologian and can only argue the edges of Old Testament law. But, for me, the Sabbath is a biblical concept more than a day of the week. In thirty-four years of pastoral service we've attempted to step away from the motions of life for quiet time with Him. Yes, of course, there was always a daily devotion and worship tiime, at least most of the time. There were many interruptions, some legitimate, others bogus. Still, a Sabbath day was usually factored into the plan of every week. It didn't always happen as planned. But, we knew to at least include Sabbath planning in our personal spiritual development.

Today ministry expectations are extremely high, often unreasonable. For this reason many pastors and church staff members are constantly on the treadmill. The time commitments and church activity calendar often preclude a Sabbath time for the pastor or his family. As a result, many are running on empty. That so many churches don't provide for the personal spiritual development of their pastor, staff, and families is an indictment of our work-based system today, a theological error. Surely Jesus didn't intend for the individuals following in his steps to be automatons running on cruise control most of the time.

One day he saw the fatigue and stress weighing on his disciples. Mark recorded, "And he said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while'. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure to even eat" (Mark 6:31).

It's a good word for these times, when 1,700 pastors are leaving the ministry every month. Many of them are stretched beyond their personal physical, emotional, and spiritual limits. So, here's a thought. If you're a church leader or member, insist that your staff and their families can step away from the mission grid on occasion. If you're a pastor, associational or denominational leader, teach the Sabbath every time you have a chance. If you're an active or retired pastor, embrace a pastor or church staff member and encourage them to step away for spiritual, physical, and emotional recover.

It's another constant. Learning, un-learning, and re-learning.


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  • sonnyholmes

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The Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II journey with Gov. Mike Huckabee thrust participants into the stratosphere of truly infuential people, a historical cadre of individuals who changed things. Each day tutored us in leadership, moral strength, personal character, vision, and resistance to cultural floods. The places and people we studied were strategically relevant, each a memorial to hazardous times and the leaders who helped navigate and survive them.

There were subtleties too, many of them. One that startled me, mostly in retrospect, involved our wonerful accommodations. Out front let me express heartfelt gratitude to the people who provided this trip. Every detail was thoroughly prepared. Our accommodations were beyond oustanding, a vivid testimony to the generosity of Godly people who have achieved a measure of success. Every element of the tour was a witness to excellence---travel, hotels, meals, touring details, transportation, speakers, and personal care.

Yet, we studied people whose lives defied accommodation. No, they were not paupers living in frontier simplicity or deprived people on the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. By all standards they were privileged citizens, wealthy inhabitants of the upper crusts of their day. But, they were indivuals to the core, three somewhat eccentric people who lived in their own private world too. The central characters of this journey---Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II--- were people who refused accommodation as a identifying motif of ther life and public service. So, was Churchiill, the large person whose shadow fell over almost every segment of the trip. They were all motivated by clearly dileneated scales of right and wrong. They refused to accommodate the shades of gray that were creeping into the collective international psyche even then. They would not accommodate communism or any of it's step-children or valueless standards over their own constituency. As a result, the iron-curtain and that wall were torn down because they were not accommodators.

The temptation to accommodate may be the greatest threat to church influence today. As culture has redefined life, and is now seeking to construct a pagan, morally deviant standard of marriage, many church leaders are serving as ushers in the new wold premier. For the sake of cultural accommodation some of us are apologizing for trhe scandalon of the Gospel. The issues of Christian influence are a no brainer when the central tenets of Christian doctrine have been traded for being the Most Popular in the class. Interestingly, actor Matthew Mcconaughey affirmed the biblical standard of one man/one woman married for life this week while church leaders hemmed and hawed in confusing statements about human sexuality.

Accommodaton may be one of the reasons 1,700 pastors leave ministry every month. Ministry is hard. That is the heartbeat of this site. It is even harder, however, when the standards shift everyday according to changing cultural moods. What dear pastor can serve passionately when he's expected to preach a toothless gospel or provide reasonable biblical apology to a sliding statement of faith? Paul said it clearly, "...but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles...." (I Corinthians 1:23). It places us at odds with an evil world system.

Accommodations are things, not people. We can enjoy them without becoming them.

#churchandculture #ministry #mission #thetimes

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  • sonnyholmes

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Yesterday we celebrated Harriet's birthday. No, it was more than that. We actually stood in awe of the miracle of her life, and the blessings He permitted us to share as a result. You see, Harriet was a preemie. She weighed 2.5 pounds when she was brought into this world at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. With my limited research skills I haven't been able to access birth data from that period of time, 1946, the earliest of the Baby Boom period. But, I do know neonatal care was essentially non-existent then. Her survival, even to the medical professionals who nursed and cared for her, was a miracle. In my mind, she was preserved to be my wife and the mother of our children, the wife of a pastor, the awesome mom of incredible kids. Yesterday wasn't, then, cake and ice cream. It was awe!

OK, so I operate from a biblical worldview. King David's declaration in Psalm 139 provides a biblical foundation for such a belief system. He wrote, "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Psalm 139:16, ESV). David seems to be saying that God had orchestrated his life even before he was born. It is the thrilling discovery that God does have a purpose for us and that He works His purpose throughout our lives (see also Philippians 2:13). Now, to glance back at the miracle of Harriet's birth, our meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, twenty-six years later, our eventual call to ministry eight years after that, and the thrilling hand that has consistently guided us in almost forty-two years of marriage reveals an astounding truth that takes my breath away: He does have a purpose for His people. Our plans amount to little, but His purpose prevails. Every step along the way is the miracle of where we are.

There's really an invisible hand. Now, when I use that term I'm not talking Adam Smith's economics, or the unidentified force that guides free-market capitalism. No, I'm talking the God of creation, the One who calls and equips us for His purpose. More specifically I'm talking the God who works His will in our lives, keeps His wonderful promises to us, and finishes in us what He has begun (see Philippians 1:3 for this truth). From the date of Harriet's birth till now we have seen His faithful hand move us, prepare us, give to us, and lead us in every life circumstance. Another birthday isn't just a celebration of an additional year, another notch in the longevity measure. It is standing in absolute reverence before Him because He has brought us to this place. It is the miracle of where we are.

Yes, some of the places are hard ones. Someone may ask, "If God is so good, why I am in this horrible situation or place?" Well, there are many answers. Mine's predictable, the worldview thing again. We face the hard stuff so we'll depend on Him. If everything was under the control of my personal resources, I wouldn't need Him. I love what Solomon wrote, "I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it so that people fear before Him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14). The hard places are so we'll depend on Him and stand in awe of Him as a result.

My passion, and the purpose of this sight, is to encourage the glance back, to remember the blessings of His calling, and anticipate the fulfillment of His intention in our lives. Yesterday, we were encouraged to rehearse His hand over us for the length of Harriet's life and mine, and to rejoice in His faithfulness throughout. Yesterday, we celebrated her life, More importantly we praised Him for the miracle of where we are. And, where we have been.

Because of what we see in the rear-view mirror, we're ecstatic to anticipate what is ahead.

Et vu?


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