December 2018 HOPE
As I write this Christmas newsletter, we are in the middle of the Advent Season. Advent is a time of waiting, trusting, and hoping. Advent helps us to focus on the real reason we celebrate on December 25th. Families and friends gather together. We decorate our houses inside and out. We eat, we laugh, we cry, we exchange gifts and then we eat some more! – Hey, IT’S CHRISTMAS! But most of all we prepare to celebrate the birth of The One who came to be our Savior.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Take some time before the end of this month to read the words of the Apostle Paul that we find in Romans 5:1-8. In this passage we find great reasons for HOPE.
I have HOPE because I am absolved of my past.
I have HOPE because I am assured of my future.
I have HOPE because God is working in the present.
Our family is doing well and we look forward to sharing the Christmas season together. In addition to the Christmas holiday, on December 27th Linda and I will be celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary. What a ride we have had during these past 50 years!
Also I am happy to report that FishBowl Ministries is alive and well! Thanks to each and every one of you who are reading this letter for your faithful and generous prayers and financial gifts throughout the year. I am also so thankful for our FBM staff who serve in California, Texas, Ohio and Tennessee. I hear continually from staff and ministry leaders that I have the privilege of working with, how grateful they are for what we do in Fishbowl Ministries. I am looking forward to 2019 as God continues to open doors for ministry.
Blessings and Peace! Lyle & Linda
IS GOD ON VACATION? November 2018
As we look at our nation and all that has been going on with the shootings, violent protests, and the terrible wildfires in CA that have destroyed so many homes and taken so many lives, we start to ask “where is God in all of this?” I watched a news report recently of a woman who had lost everything in the fire at Paradise, CA. As she looked at all the destruction she said: “God is on vacation and He is not taking care of us!” I have never experienced that kind of pain, but I have had my moments when I cried out to God and said, “God where are you?”
Author and Speaker Bob Goff said this: “God doesn’t owe us an explanation when God does something that we do not understand yet.”
Recently I have been hanging out in the Psalms to find words of strength and encouragement. I do not have enough room in this newsletter to write all the words that have been speaking to me, but I would encourage you to read the below passages for yourself: Psalm 107, Psalm 112, Psalm 32 and 34.
If I believe God’s Word, and I do, then I must rest on His words of comfort and strength. We certainly do not always understand how God works or why things happen as they do, but the Bible assures us that God is always present and He will never leave us. I often think of the words that God gave to Joshua after Moses had died:
Do not be afraid or discouraged.
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
On a personal note, another year is almost over and we are heading into our 7th year of FishBowl Ministries! God continues to work through all our staff as we reach out with hope, encouragement and friendship to those in ministry so that they may finish strong!
Here are two important facts that you should know:
– 1. We understand that we could not do this without God
– 2. We know that we could not do this without your prayers and generous financial gifts.
As you think about your year-end giving to your church and other non-profits, I would be humbled if you would consider sending a year-end gift to FishBowl Ministries to finish off the year strong!
Thank you once again for all you do to help those in ministry thru your faithful partnership with FishBowl Ministries.
Blessings and peace!
The Day In The Life of A Pastor October 2018
Have you ever wondered how a pastor spends his time? Have you ever wondered what a typical day looks like for the man or woman who has been called by God to shepherd the flock? As I thought about this subject for my October newsletter my mind raced back to the first church that Linda and I served. It was located in Barrington Hills, IL about 30 miles north of Chicago. It was a small congregation and was considered as a “church plant.” I believe the church paid me $200 per week and our district added additional funds. In those days I printed out a monthly income/expense sheet for everyone to see, which included my salary. One Sunday as I was standing in the foyer of the church a girl about 10 years old picked up one of those sheets. She seemed to focus on the line that was my salary. As she did so she exclaimed, “Wow, you get paid all that money for working one day a week!” (My guess is that this was a comment that her parents had around the dinner table.) I promise you that I worked more than one day a week. I prepared two messages a week plus a Wednesday Bible Study. I called on families and visited those in the hospital, among several other weekly duties. Please understand that I am not complaining or bragging, those are just the facts.
A pastor never really knows what his week will look like. One of the things I enjoyed about being a pastor was that every day was different and most of them were never boring. Recently I was talking to a pastor and I asked him how things were going in his ministry. Without giving you all the details, he said “Well, in the past two weeks a young lady who was connected to our church got drunk in a bar and pulled out a gun to shoot herself. Fortunately, someone was able to stop her. Then another woman tried to commit suicide by cutting her throat, but she was rushed to the hospital and they saved her life. A man who was dating our next door neighbor was upset about the relationship and proceeded to go out to her garage and hanged himself!” I shared this series of events with a group of pastors and none of them had ever had a week like that, and thankfully, nor have I.
I shared the above account to remind us that all of our pastors need our prayers. Hopefully, they will never have a week like I just described, but they must be prepared for anything that happens. I would urge you not to ask your pastor what his week has been like, but just assure him/her that you are praying for them.
1. Your prayers for Linda are greatly appreciated as she continues to struggle with the effects of
2. Continue to pray for the effectiveness of Fish Bowl Ministries.
Thank you for standing with us in this vital ministry. Your prayers and financial gifts are greatly appreciated!
Part 2 Secrets of Pastors
As we continue with part 2 of our “Secrets of Pastors”, I decided to google the word “pastor”. Among many definitions these two stood out:
A pastor is an ordained leader of a Christian congregation. It is derived from the Latin word meaning shepherd.
Being a pastor is a complex and demanding role, and only those that God has empowered by the Holy Spirit will truly be able to fill it.
Let’s take a look at the final 6 secrets that pastors deal with:
I Am Afraid To Ask For What I Really Want
This can appear many different ways. Maybe he needs a raise, but he is afraid to ask. Maybe the pastor needs a 3 week vacation instead of just a weekend off, but he is afraid to ask. For many years of our pastoral ministry, we lived in houses provided by the church. There were times when we wanted to paint a room or put in new carpet, or even do some remodeling, but I was hesitant to ask. In almost every occasion when I asked the Board said yes. Why was I afraid to ask?
I Have thought About Leaving Even Though I Am Staying
My Secret Job Is Nothing Like This Job
One of the reasons that leadership is difficult is that you deal with so many intangibles. Its brain work, people management, conflict management and trying to get people to do things they don’t usually do or may not want to do. Pastors stay because they have a calling that is greater than anything else they could do.
I Feel Like I Don’t Really Know What I Am Doing
Many of us have felt like this but we just don’t want to admit it. It helps to surround ourselves with wise people and together, figure out the best way to solve the problem.
People Seem To Believe In Me More Than I Believe In Myself
When a leader has been through #9 enough times, he may just give up believing in himself. But when you look around you discover that other people are believing in you, and that inspires you to keep on going.
I Thought We Would Have Made More Progress By Now
Every leader wants to see growth. The problem is that when we look over our shoulder and see some great success story we say, “Why wasn’t that me?” We forget that most “overnight” success stories were 5-15 years in the making. It’s ok to be mildly disappointed because it will always spur you on to do more.
So there you have it, “11 Secrets Most Church Leaders Won’t Tell You.” Does every pastor struggle with all 11 of these thoughts, probably not, and there may be more than I have shared with you. However, our role is to pray for those that God has called to lead us and support them in any way that we can.
Thanks to each of you for praying and giving financially to Fishbowl Ministries. Your support is what enables us to come along side pastors to offer them friendship, hope and encouragement, so that they may finish strong!
Secrets of Pastors
If you read the title of this newsletter then you are probably thinking that I am going tell you some juicy tid-bits about pastors. They are not juicy and I prefer to call them “insights” into the lives of pastors.
I receive a daily blog from a pastor/author/speaker who lives in Canada. Recently his blog was entitled “11 Secrets Most Church Leaders Won’t Tell You.” I have shared these with several pastors and find that most of them struggle with one or more of these insights. We will take a look at the first 5 this month and the final 6 next month.
I Am Less Secure Than I Appear
The put-together exterior does not always match the fragile interior. Insecurity is a trap. The more insecure you are, the most you resist telling anyone about it. Pastors need to admit their insecurity, see a counselor, talk to a friend and pray about it.
Getting Close To God Isn’t Easy
There is pressure on pastors and church leaders to have a ‘great’ relationship with God. However, pastors are just like the rest of the population – they have their ups and downs. Everybody goes through spiritual seasons.
I’m Lonelier Than I let On
Many driven type leaders do not do relationships easily, and sometimes it is lonelier than it needs to be – especially if you have to make unpopular decisions.
Sometimes It’s Hard At Home
The simple truth is what we post on FaceBook and Instagram is not always true. There are no perfect marriages – not yours, not mine and not your Pastor’s. I remember one time after preaching a woman came up to Linda and said, “It must be wonderful living with Lyle” to which Linda replied, “Well not always!”
The Criticism Hurts
We pretend that it doesn’t hurt, but it does. We put on our poker face but deep down it stings. Pastors need to tell somebody, tell God, and not let their families bear the brunt of the hurt all the time.
Now, I wouldn’t suggest that you go to your pastor this next week and ask him if any of these things bother him, but I would suggest that we all recognize that those who lead us are human with human frailties and, just like you and me, they need our prayers.
Thank you to each one of you for being a part of our FishBowl Team. We are so grateful for your prayers, notes of encouragement and your financial gifts!
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an Opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith Is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
GREAT JOY?…….Really? I am afraid we do not always see it that way. This is a familiar passage that applies to all of us because we all have had or are currently experiencing trials. Some trials pass quickly and seem rather insignificant in the whole scheme of life. Then there are others that are painful and long lasting. The interesting thing about trials is that no one is exempt, not you, not me or even those in the ministry profession. Trust me, our FBM staff meets with many who are facing all kinds of trials, some having such overwhelming troubles that they are tempted to quit the ministry. Have you ever said, “Where is God in all of these troubles?” I have!
Let me take a personal turn at this point. Most of you know that Linda was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in December of 2005. For the first 5-6 years most people would not have known. Even though Parkinson’s is not an aggressive disease, it is progressive. Now, more than 13 years later, Linda is seeing a lot of changes in her health. She has great doctors and wonderful medications that help people with Parkinson’s to have a fairly good quality of life. However, the disease does take its toll. It is our trial that we are trying to endure with joy, as James says.
Have we prayed for Linda? Yes, every day. Have we asked God to heal her? Yes, many times. Have we followed the instructions of James 5:13-15 to call the Elders of the church, to anoint her with oil for healing? Yes, on several occasions. Has God answered with a miraculous healing? Not at this point.
Have you ever asked God “why”? I have!
Have you ever said, “God, are you still here”? I have!
Have you ever asked God, “Do you hear my prayers? Do you even care”? I have!
Have you ever felt like just giving up? I have, and I bet you have too.
BUT WE ARE NOT GIVING UP! Why? Because God is still in control. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised that whatever joys we have experienced here on earth cannot compare to the joys we are promised in Heaven! So…..WE ARE NOT GIVING UP!!!!
Recently in a pastor’s group that I facilitate, our conversation turned to sports. One of the young pastors was asking others in the group how hard he should push his young son to be involved in baseball. As I listened I started thinking about the importance that our society places on sports. Now don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy a lot of sports but mainly as a spectator. Although I do manage to get in a round of golf once or twice a year.
You see, when I was growing up music was my thing. I tell you this so that I can explain later what I am talking about. In junior high school and throughout high school, I played the trumpet. I was in the concert band, the marching band, and the dance band. I was also in the concert choir, swing choir, madrigal singers and the boy’s quintet. If it was musical I was in it, but sports found me as a spectator. However, I do remember those neighborhood baseball games that we played during the summer. As I recall they went something like this:
Two boys were chosen to be captains and they took turns choosing the guys that they wanted on their team. Finally it got down to the final two, of which I was one. I can still hear those words, “You take John and I will take Lyle.” Not only was I chosen last, but the tone of voice was somewhat humiliating.
It feels good to be chosen, even if we are chosen last. Even if we do not win the amazing award or get picked first for the team, far more important than any of this is that we are chosen by God. Read what God said in Isaiah 41: 8-10:
But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one.
I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying ‘You are my servant’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged for I am your God.
I no longer call you slaves, because a master does not confide in his slaves.
Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father has told me.
You didn’t choose me. I chose you.
I hope you will rejoice with me in being chosen to be on Jesus’ team. You and I are not on His team because of our skills or accomplishments, we are there because He redeemed us! (As always, thanks for being a part of the FBM Team!)
Have you ever had something break? Of course you have. It could be your car, your lawn mower or your TV. Recently our dryer broke, which surprised me since it is less than 2 years old. Recently I went into our pantry to get something off the shelf. In an attempt to get that certain item I knocked a jar of hot fudge sauce onto the floor, and you guessed it, IT BROKE!! It wasn’t a huge mess but just enough to be a sticky mess. Sometimes if we drop and break something we can actually glue the pieces back together and no one knows what we did, but this was not the case with the hot fudge jar.
What about people? Since none of us are perfect, we know that in some way we are all broken, and usually it takes more than super glue to mend those broken pieces. IT TAKES A SAVIOR. That is what Jesus came to do, take the broken pieces of our lives and put them back together again. Recently I stopped to visit a pastor who has been broken. When I first met him a few years ago, I assumed he had his life altogether but I later found out how broken he really was. I have not had any real contact with him until today. With the urging of the Holy Spirit I felt like it was time to break the barrier and I stopped to see him. I did not have an appointment but I did know where he works. He greeted me with open arms and a big hug and for the next several minutes we talked about his journey and how God has been mending his broken pieces. He has struggled with shame and with those who talked behind his back. His journey has not been easy, but God is the Mender of broken pieces.
Maybe you have someone in your own life, a friend or family member who is broken and you are praying, “God, send someone to help that person.” We all want to think that “someone else” will be there but what if God wants YOU to be the one who deals with the “broken pieces?” That was my experience today. Listen to the Holy Spirit. He may be asking you to help someone you know and love to pick up the broken pieces of their life.
I love what our team gets to do through FishBowl Ministries. We come along side of those who are hurting and broken and offer them Hope, Encouragement and Friendship! Thank you for continuing to help us do that with your prayers and generous financial support.
A Personal Reflection January, 2018
The Holidays are over, and as I write this letter we are half way through the first month of 2018. Yikes! Through the years I have written on several subjects both to inform you and also to encourage you in your daily walk with God. There are a few personal things that I would like to share with you this month:
*A big THANK YOU to all of you who pray for us and give financially so that the work of FishBowl Ministries can continue. This past year, our year-end giving was more than twice the amount of our usual monthly income! This helps us to start 2018 with a small reserve to meet the needs of ministry.
*I am so blessed to lead our FishBowl team of Len Sunukjian, Byron Burns, Tom Norvell and Greg Rhodes. These are men of great integrity and compassionate hearts for those who serve in ministry. During the months of 2018 our team will take turns in posting a newsletter or other words of encouragement to pastors on our website.
Please take some time and visit: www.fishbowlministries.org.
*Your continued prayers are greatly needed and appreciated. Join with me this year as I pray that God will continue to increase our influence across the county and also bring to us new personnel who have a passion to minister to those in ministry.
*One a very personal note, Linda and I would greatly appreciate your prayers on behalf of her health. She is in her 13th year of living with Parkinson’s disease. Even though she is still as active as she can be, this disease is certainly taking its toll on her. I know, and my Board continues to affirm, that Linda is my first priority of ministry. So pray with us that I will be a faithful steward in leading Fishbowl Ministries, spending time with pastors, and giving time and care to Linda as we continue this journey together.
*Pray for our fourth Music City Father’s Retreat, April 3-5, 2018. This is a gathering of 15-20 Christian Musicians along with a few pastor types. This continues to be a time of great fellowship, personal sharing, lots of music and reflecting on our lives and ministries.
In a recent sermon I heard, I was reminded of Caleb. There are five verses in Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua where we discover why Caleb was so effective in his life. Those verses tell us that Caleb. WHOLE-HEARTEDLY FOLLOWED THE LORD. That is my prayer for myself and all of us as we navigate through 2018!
Blessings & Peace!
The 7 Cent Gift
I believe that almost everyone likes to receive gifts. Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or a gift for no special reason at all, we all like gifts. By the time you read this letter, Thanksgiving Day will have come and gone and Christmas will be just around the corner. Sometimes the gifts we receive come in large packages, but often the smallest gifts are the most precious. A few weeks ago I was at Office Depot getting my October newsletter printed. There was an elderly woman in front of me trying to pay for her order. Her bill was $1.07. I seldom carry any change with me but that day I knew I had some in my pocket. I handed her 7 cents and said “Here is 7 cents so that you do not have to have all that change with you.” You would have thought that I had given her a diamond ring! She smiled and thanked me and moved on. (I have since wondered why I just didn’t pay for the whole thing. Next time I will be more sensitive.) It was a very small gift, but it made her smile. All that for just 7 cents. We never know what act of kindness will encourage someone who may need a lift that day. In my case all it took was 7 cents!
It is hard to believe that this year is almost gone. Fishbowl ministries is headed into its 6th year of praying for, encouraging and standing alongside all those in ministry. When a pastor says, “Thanks for stopping by” or “Thanks for praying with me”, or “Thanks for being my friend,” then we know why FishBowl Ministries is so important. I also know that Fishbowl ministries has been blessed with so many wonderful supporters who stand with us each month in prayer and generous financial gifts. We could not do this without you! Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:3-6 is my prayer for each of you:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
As you think about your year-end giving to your Church or favorite charity I hope that you will remember FishBowl Ministries. We want to end 2017 strong so that we can continue into the New Year, reaching out to pastors throughout the country. Maybe you can only give 7 cents or maybe you can give a large year-end gift. Either way, it will be greatly appreciated!
Blessings & Peace!