[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #24 ---- 6/28/98

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From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1998 20:55:08 -0500
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder in the Trenches,
Encouraging One Another as we "Fight the Good Fight"


Title:  The Expectations of Hammers



Dear Fellow Workmen:

It seems the issue of my hitting my finger with that  "Hrvatski Hammer"
three weeks ago (Hrvatski means Croatian) isn't going to go away very
soon ---- either literally or symbolically.

Believe it or not, I'm still getting some occasional drainage and
inflammation, and the finger is still very tender to the touch.  When I
type, I get a strange sensation ---- like something is not connected. 
I'm certain that the only things holding the finger nail in place are the
quick and the cuticle.  So, I am prepared for the long haul ---- as much
as two or three months, I am told, before the new nail will be fully
grown.

In the meantime, I groan! ---- with rejoicing! (by faith, sometimes).

A good friend, Tom, found a way to throw me a little jab in the ribs for
not being careful enough, share a little humor, and make some profound
applications to the ministry ---- all from my episode with the hammer.

To set the stage, Tom is the pastor to one of my daughters and her
family.  He came out of a non-evangelical religious background built on
performance, became a Christian, and quickly got actively involved in a
church while working in the secular world.  He grew rapidly, and became a
strong leader in the church.

When the founding pastor left to begin a new church in another part of
the country, Tom was selected to become the pastor of the church . Few
young pastors I know have a greater heart for God and for the lost. 

Having been denied much of the background and schooling most of us went
through in ministry, he nonetheless has an incredible heart for God, and
also carries the bruises and scars from both the unbelieving world and
that of  "the real world of the ministry".

It is out of that mix that Tom wrote the following.  It spoke so clearly
to my heart both about what God is teaching him, and also what God wants
all of us to know about ministry, that I wanted you to be blessed by his
insight.

Thanks, Tom, for sending this note:  it blessed me!  I pray it blesses
others, too.



LESSONS FROM HAMMERS AND HAMMERERS:

Bob

When I hear of people hitting their finger doing some type of
construction, I always have two thoughts: 

  1.)   First of all, I can relate.

I have done construction of some type occupationally since 1979.   Even
after being 'full time' in ministry, I still love to work on people's
home or at church.

I can relate because I can remember losing nails over the years, losing
movement due to smashed fingers; and I especially remember working
outdoors in 25 below weather, where when you smash your finger, you don't
feel it in anyway until that night when your body is warming up ---- then
you receive a divine impartation of revelation about your circulatory
system and how it works. 

  2.)   Secondly, I find myself thinking; "eventually, you learn not to
do that..." 

It is EXTREMELY rare for me to ever miss the object (nail, etc.) at which
my hammer is aimed.  The more experience you receive, eventually you stop
hitting your finger.

Oh, it is not as though you COULDN'T hit your finger, you just learn to
NOT hit it!   

You learn this through time, experience, and insight into what damage can
be caused by "carelessness". 

Pain teaches us a lot! 

Some other things that a builder learns:

  1.)  You learn that timing is everything in order to have full impact
on the nail you are trying to drive.
 
  2.)  You learn that the point of your service is to build while not
ending up injured yourself, because tomorrow another challenge awaits
you, and you need full use of all you are in order to complete the task.

  3.)   You learn to temper your blows depending upon what your goal is
for the task at hand.  For example: driving 20d nails requires more
power, versus lightly hammering to shape a piece of soft copper. 

  4.)   You learn to choose the size of your hammer depending upon the
task.  For example you would never use a 4 oz  tack hammer to drive in
steel stakes for concrete forms; nor would you use a sledge hammer to
drive in a 2d finish nail to attach a hinge upon a jewelry box.

   5.)   You learn to control the direction, impact, of the hammer as it
becomes an extension of your hand and even your mind.

   6.)   You learn what type and size of nail will best work;  too large,
and damage will be done; too small, and it will not accomplish your goal.

   7.)   You learn to remove nails, sometimes calling in 'outside help' 
from a cat's-paw or crow-bar. 

   8.)   You learn that whatever YOU do will decide on how long your
project will be around, the longevity of it.

   9.)   You learn confidence in the hammers to do what they were created
to do; not abusing them, but using them as needed for EACH job.

 10.)   You learn that you never are too experienced to stop learning. 
Others more experienced than yourself make great mentors.  Before you can
be a master, you need to be a journeyman.  Before you can be a
journeyman, you need to be an apprentice. 

 11.)   You learn to not stop just because you might be injured.



As I pondered this, I realized that in many ways this is the path we walk
as pastors, as we learn to use the tools God has given us for the tasks
at hand; especially in preaching and counseling:

   1.)  You learn that timing is everything in order to have full impact
on the point you are trying to make with people.
 
   2.)  You learn that the point of your service is to build while not
ending up injured yourself, because tomorrow another challenge awaits
you, and you need full use of all who you are in order to complete the
task.

    3.)  You learn to temper your blows depending upon what your goal is
for the task at hand. For example: an intervention requires more power
versus lightly exhorting to shape a soft heart. 

   4.)  You learn to choose the size of your message depending upon the
task.  For example you would never use just a 4 spiritual laws lesson to
train up an apostle;  nor would you use a lexical study as a street
witnessing tool.

   5.)   You learn to control the direction, impact, of the message as it
becomes an extension of your heart, soul and your mind ---- as well as
hopefully representing the LORD!

   6.)   You learn what type and size of message will best work; too
large, and damage will be done (boredom); too small, and it will not
accomplish your goal.

   7.)   You learn to remove errors, mistakes, stings, "flesh" from your
messages, sometimes calling in 'outside help' from elders or other
	pastors who can help you to "remove the nails" as you ask for
forgiveness.

   8.)   You learn that whatever YOU do will decide on how long your
message will be around, the longevity of it.  Although we ultimately
leave it with the Holy Spirit, we can short-circuit our own ministry by
not thinking through as to what kind of an impact what we say could
possibly have, depending on how we deliver it to the people.  Did it come
through an anointing of the Holy Spirit, or through our flesh?

   9.)   You learn confidence in the gifts God has given you to do what
they were created to do; not abusing them but using them as needed for
EACH job.

 10.) You learn that you never are too experienced to stop learning. 
Others more experienced than yourself make great mentors.   A major
difference is that you can never be THE Master;  you need to be a
journeyman.  But, before you can be a journeyman, you need to be, and
continue to be a servant...

 11.) You learn to not stop just because you might be injured.

Keep on "pounding away" at building the part of His Kingdom that He has
given you to do. Keep on going forward and watch out for those hammers.

 Tom



Aren't those some great thoughts there?  Makes me almost glad I hit my
finger, just so Tom could share those insights with us.  I really feel
you and I ---- and Tom ---- were being taught by the Master Carpenter.



A MULTITUDE OF THOUGHTS:

As I look back over my ministry I can readily note times when I used the
wrong hammer, or at least the wrong size, when trying to minister ----
sometimes one-on-one, sometimes with committees or workers, sometimes
from the pulpit.  I remember well the first time the Lord jerked me up
short and confronted me about my attitude in the pulpit.   I was
pastoring a church of about 700 members.

It broke my heart when He said, "You will NOT use My pulpit as a whipping
post on My people just so you can vent your frustrations over their lack
of commitment.  Your job is to shepherd ---- NOT to scatter."

I had forgotten:

It was His pulpit ---- not mine.

They were His people ---- not mine.

He would tend to them ---- not I.

Their lack of commitment was His problem ---- not mine.

My job was shepherding and leading ---- not driving; not destroying.

I remember the story of a young pastor fresh from seminary, filled with
more zeal than wisdom, who began lashing out from the pulpit when he felt
his members were not responsive enough to his leadership and his
preaching.  Finally, after several months of exasperated pulpiteering, a
wise deacon lovingly drew the pastor aside following his Sunday morning
scalding and said, "Pastor, you can shear sheep many times, but you can
skin them only once."



WHY DO WE BEAT THE WIND?  OR THE PEOPLE?

What makes us do those things?  What causes us to miss the sensitivity of
the Holy Spirit and end up doing the right thing the wrong way or at the
wrong time, doing the wrong thing, or doing the right thing in a manner
that is destructive rather than redemptive?

I believe there are several reasons that could be given..  

However that really isn't necessary; and, if we're honest, we'll discover
that most of them have to do with us, and not with our members.  Because
we have been taught the "Blame and Shame Game" well, we often don't
recognize that our outward expressions come from inner issues.  Former
missionary to Malaysia Bob Wakefield made a profound statement at a
conference during my first pastorate; I have never forgotten it.  

"It isn't other people's action that is our problem; it's our Reaction to
their action."

No truer words!

Looking back to that "whipping post" and other times of ministry, I
believe I can summarize the inner issues with which I was personally
struggling:

It all boiled down into one word ---- Expectations.

1.  My Expectations of my people.

2.  My Expectations of myself.

3.  My response to the expectations of others.

4.  My failure to recognize and understand God's expectations.



UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS:

Expectations can be wonderful motivations ---- or they can be hideous
things.  I know of nothing that can put a person in greater bondage than
unrealistic expectations.

My mind is whirling a mile a minute right now, and I'm not even going to
try to cover all that I am feeling.  However, let me make the following
observations:

1.  Expectations will either make or break a ministry ---- and a family
---- and a life ---- depending on their source, their purpose,  and their
standards of comparison.  Therefore, it is imperative that I get both the
source, the purpose,  and the standard correctly identified and firmly
rooted in my soul.

2.  When it comes to My Expectations Of My People, I find that most of
them are actually derived from others ---- the Director of the Sunday
School, a denominational leader, a charismatic and gifted preacher of
reputation, fellow ministers at the weekly Monday pastors' luncheon, my
parents, etc.  A few of them are my own ---- almost none are God's!

Therefore, because the source is wrong, the purpose will be wrong, and
the standard of comparison is also wrong.  It's a no brainer.

3.  Expectations all too often are also for the Wrong Purpose ----
success.  

Just what IS success?  Is success for you the same as for others?  If you
do the same things others do, will you be as successful as they?

Chances are your definition of success will probably be different from
God's.

If our expectations have been ingrained in our minds because we want to
have the appearance of success, then we've really blown it.  Do you have
any idea the pressure we place on ourselves, and subsequently on our
people, (and on our own families!) because of the diabolical purpose of
"being successful!"?

May God forgive us for this monstrous sin!

4.  My Expectations Of Myself often are derived, on the one hand, from
past failures and accompanying feelings of guilt and unworthiness, or, on
the other, from feelings of low self worth, resulting in a consequencial
desire to redeem myself.  Those failures, guilty feelings, and low self
worth, cause us to feel rejected, unloved, and unappreciated.  So, we
find ways to generate unrealistic or false expectations of ourselves so
we can, if successful, feel good about ourselves ---- which in turn,
gives us confidence before our people ---- or, if unsuccessful, justify
our failure and misery, and be angry with our people.

So, because we want to be successful, we place undue pressures on our
people, because "we succeed only when they do".  On the other hand, if
they fail, we fail ---- and we lash out ---- at them!  And blame them!

Those self-generated and self-imposed expectations, when unfulfilled, do
lots of crazy things inside, and when they eventually  come out, (and
they will ---- eventually!) they do so with the fury of fire, the
deadliness of poison, and the strangling taste of bile ---- in the form
of judgementalism, anger, impatience, intimidation, complaining,
demanding spirit, threats, legalism, irresponsible decisions, self pity,
and a full host of other symptomatic issues of the soul.

Taken to its extreme, we can then get on God's case ---- and blame Him
---- for either letting us fail, for putting us in this particular
ministry to a lazy and ungrateful people, or for not loving us enough to
let us succeed.  (Study the little conversation Moses had with God in
Exodus 32.  Moses made sure God knew who was responsible and who these
people belonged to ---- God, and not Moses.)

5.  Often the Expectations Of Others, also based on the same three
erroneous criteria, pressure us to extreme measures (such as "whipping
post" preaching) in order to get our people to act right so that the
results will be some degree of "success" which coincides with those
expectations of others.

I've often wondered just how many "visits" would be made by pastors and
staff if there was not the drive to meet the expectations of a dominant
person or committee.  We must prove to "him", "her", or "them" that we
are indeed worth keeping ---- and paying. 

In II Corinthians 5, Paul identifies five things that motivated or
"constrained" him, and none of them were the expectations of others.

6.  A sure guarantee for continued pressure, frustration, and untenured
ministry is to fail to ask for, receive, recognize, and act on God's
expectations for your ministry, your family, and your church.  

God has some clear cut expectations for you.  They are as certain as the
sunrise tomorrow morning.

What Are God's expectations for you?  And for me?

Well, some are standard fare for us all ---- be born again, be filled
with the Holy Spirit, live godly lives, be good stewards of all we have,
be people of prayer, be fervently in the Word, utilize our spiritual
gifts faithfully, witness to the lost, give generously, care for our
families diligently, minister to the needy, love unconditionally.

In a nutshell, ---- faithfully obedient!

What about, however, the more specific and personalized expectations God
has for you ---- where you are right now?

You'll have to find that out from Him.

You know how, so find out.



SUMMARILY:

In reading back through Tom's letter, five very important thoughts come
to mind ---- four of them from his own statements:

1.  "I can relate". 

I think you and I both can relate to the painful reality of getting
"pounded" because of improper attention to or use of situations in our
ministries.  

It's never intended.  It's never desired. But, it's pretty much
guaranteed.  It comes with the turf.  And ---- you aren't the only one
who went through the little end of the funnel.

You may be like the guy Ron Dunn described years ago:  "I thought I saw
the light at the end of the tunnel, and discovered it was a freight train
coming the other way!"

2.  "Eventually you learn not to do that."  

There is such hope in that statement!  While it doesn't take away the
pain, it does give one some assurance.  

Our zeal will be mellowed with wisdom.  Our drive will be tempered with
patience.  Our message will be cradled in compassion.  Our humanity will
be progressively robed in the nature and character of Christ.

3.  "The more experience you receive, eventually you stop hitting your
finger."

I think that means that "someday, somewhere, when you least expect it,"
you'll stop making the mistake of living with unrealistic and ungodly
expectations, someday you'll stop hitting your finger with the hammer,
and . . . .

someday, the pain will cease.  There is hope!

4.  "You learn this through time, experience, and insight into what
damage can be caused by 'carelessness'.  Pain teaches us a lot!"

Time IS a great teacher.

Experience is an equally great teacher.

Insight is an even better teacher because it has understanding.

Pain may not necessarily be the Best teacher, but it often teaches us the
Most.



The fifth thought is one I feel is a strong word of encouragement for all
the "Tom's" out there ---- or maybe all the "Bob's" who are still
faithfully trying to drive nails, sometimes in the midst of great pain.

5.  "Be Patient.  Healing comes!"

Whatever you do, don't give up!  

      Don't give out!  

            Don't give in!

My friend, no matter how hard your field of ministry has been, it is
never Too hard.  

No matter how long it has taken, it is never Too long.  

No matter how deep the wound, it is never Too deep.

"Weeping may endure for a season,  ---- but Joy comes in the morning!"

Someone today needs this word ----

   "Healing comes!"


        "Healing COMES!"


             "HEALING comes!"


                  "HEALING COMES!"



Be blessed, my friend.

In Christ's Bond,

Bob Tolliver
Copyright June, 1998.  All rights reserved.

Life Unlimited Ministries
lifeunlimited@...
Ph: 417-275-4854
Fax: 417-275-4855