Pastoral Self-Indulgence

Apr 03

Pastoral Self-Indulgence

I’ve heard it said that one of the gifts of marriage is that it makes you into a better person (iron sharpens iron, etc.). I think this is true of being a pastor as well. Part of the job of a pastor is to think of other people more than yourself, which is the call of every Christian, of course. I think it’s a little more “obligatory” when you’re a pastor, though. I think that’s a good thing–it is helping me become more of that kind of person (slowly, over time). A few days ago, as I was driving down the interstate, I had an interesting thought: What if that’s the real reason God has made me a pastor? Not so much for other people’s benefit, but for my own. That’s a little uncomfortable for me to think about, since I see my “job” as being there for other people. But what if there’s a bigger reason for me being a pastor? Well, is there really any reason to be a pastor that is more important than helping others draw near to Christ? At first, I would say no. But what if the bigger reason isn’t for other people, but for me? Does that sound selfish or self-indulgent? On one level, it does. But on another level, maybe not. The Apostle Paul seemed to indicate his own walk with the Lord was just as, or even more, important than helping other people in their walk with the Lord. What use is it, he asks, if he helps others qualify for the prize, but he himself becomes disqualified? What if the reason why God made me a pastor is more than just helping people in my congregation know God, more than helping to establish a strong vibrant church in our community, even more than seeing this community come to know Christ? What if, just like marriage, God has placed this calling on me in order to mold me into something/someone that He wants me to be for all eternity? Is there something specific God has for me in eternity that He is preparing me for while I am here on earth? I mean…What if no one in my church ever...

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When Idealism Gets In The Way Of Faith

Jul 23

Since I wrote my last blog post, the conclusion I came to in that post has stuck with me. I think I had a little epiphany when I wrote the last two paragraphs: I must strive to have enough faith in God to believe that He can work through all sorts of situations and people like me that aren’t ideal. Perhaps instead of striving to become a more ideal leader or to make situations more ideal/biblical/effective, I should strive more to place my faith and hope squarely in God, believing that He can do great things in very imperfect situations and through very imperfect people like me. I can’t get away from that thought. I strongly desire to see things become ideal in churches. That’s where my passion lies. It’s ideal if everyone in a local church is on-fire for God–I want to see that happen! It’s ideal if the leadership of a church is unified, passionate, and committed to the Gospel–I want to see that happen! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think that God has put those feelings inside of me. The problem comes when I can’t see a way for God to have His way unless those things are in place. I forget that God merely spoke this world into existence–and that He considered that a full-day’s work. After six days of speaking, He felt the need to take a day off to rest, ha! God only has to speak the word, and He has His way. No matter how ideal or depressing a situation is, He squirms His way through and performs a miracle. Whether it is the miracle of life or the miracle of life from the dead, a simple faith in God is all it takes to move mountains. You don’t need this in place or that in place. All you need is God to show up. And He promises to show up where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name. Take a look at the stars at night and let them remind you of everything our God can...

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It’s Not Hard To Be A Disciple, Part 3

May 14

(If you haven’t already, read Part 1 and Part 2 first.) Jesus promises us abundant life and promises to be with us always, even unto the end of the age. It should not be hard at all to be a disciple of Jesus. Yet there is one group that Jesus says will find it very difficult to be one of His disciples. Rich people. At one point, he alludes to it figuratively in the Parable of the Sower. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature (i.e. produce fruit). But at another point, He flat out says: Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me…How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. –Luke 18:22, 24-25 I find it interesting that Jesus doesn’t treat us all “fairly” like the government does (or ought to do) with taxes. Jesus doesn’t say, “Each of you should give me 10% of what you own.” That would make it more of an even playing field for everyone, regardless of how much they owned. If you were poor and only had $100 to your name, you’d only have to give $10. While the person who has $1,000,000 to their name would have to give $100,000. (Interestingly enough, the “tithe” doctrine has convinced too many church-goers that God asks for 10%, and let’s us keep the other 90%. Because of this and many other reasons, I’m not convinced tithing is a New Covenant principle.) Instead of asking for a certain percentage from us, Jesus makes it so difficult for rich people. He asks for everything from everyone. To the person who only has $100, this isn’t as difficult as the person who has $1,000,000…that is a tall order. To the person who has a shabby home, giving up the home is much easier than someone else who is...

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It’s Not Hard To Be A Disciple, Part 2

May 13

(Read part 1 first, if you haven’t.) So I’m supposed to lose everything in this life in exchange for Jesus…are we saying that I must quit my job, sell my home, give away all my possessions in order to be a disciple of Jesus? Why wouldn’t you be willing to do so? Wouldn’t you rather follow Jesus than have all that stuff? No? If you wouldn’t be willing to lose it all for Him, then do you really know what a treasure it is to know Jesus? It’s very clear in Scripture that Jesus called people to give it all away in order to follow Him. Why would it be any different now? The fact is, I think Jesus is calling every one of us to give it all away. Even if God wants you to keep your present job or keep your present money for the time being, it is only for the time being. It isn’t yours anymore. Jesus has a plan in place for how to spend it all. The same is true for your very life. For example, if God asked you today to die for Him, some might say, “Could you do it? Could you die for Jesus?” But a disciple of Jesus would say, “I already died when I was baptized. It is nothing to die for Jesus today.” If God asked you today to quit your job, some might say, “Could you do it? Would you be able to trust God to provide for you and your family?” But a disciple of Jesus would say, “Since the day I confessed Jesus as Lord, I have been trusting God to provide for me and my family. This is no different. I’ve already given this job over to the Lord years ago.” Whatever things were yours before you became a Christian, they are no longer yours. Jesus now owns them, because Jesus now owns you. You have already sold everything you own to Jesus, and He has bought them. He is now free to do with them as He wishes, just as you were free to do with them as you wished before becoming a Christian. And I have a hunch that what Jesus...

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It’s Not Hard To Be A Disciple

May 12

I’ve been reflecting over the current sermon series I am preaching in our churches right now on discipleship. I think it is the most challenging series for our congregations that I’ve preached. I can “feel” it. What do I mean by this? Well, everyone knows that people go to church to be inspired–they have usually had a rough week and are looking for some glimmer of hope or encouragement. Yet, the call to discipleship really is a call to die. It is a message that asks more of us to the call of Christ. Not necessarily the most inspiring message. But through my study and through our messages, I’ve been seeing more and more that to be a disciple of Jesus really isn’t hard,. Jesus says things like, “Take my yoke upon you, for my burden is easy, and my yoke is light.” He also says, “I have come to give you life, and life abundantly.” How can we juxtapose these things alongside the “hard road” of discipleship? For me, the answer is Matthew 6:24-34. Looking out my window, I see some trees that are now just finally starting to grow their leaves for spring. It is a natural phenomenon. God has provided the means for these types of things to happen, and they happen every year as they should. Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t hard either. With the Holy Spirit inside of us, God has provided the means for us to grow too. Jesus encourages us to look outside our windows during spring in this passage in Matthew 6, “Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin.” The reason being a disciple of Jesus is so hard for us is that we are toiling and spinning to make our lives as great as they can be. The notion that being a disciple of Jesus is even more important than anything else in this life–well, that just feels like SO MUCH added pressure to an already pressurized life. We are just proving Jesus right when He says in verse 24, “No one can serve two masters.” The reason why discipleship is so hard is because we feel we cannot leave...

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What Should A Pastor Consider “Work”?

May 06

What Should A Pastor Consider “Work”?

No, this isn’t a post debating Calvinism and Arminianism. It’s more practical than that. When Billy Graham was interviewed about what he’d do differently if he had to do it all over again, he said he would spend a whole lot more time praying and studying. And he’d spend a lot less time speaking, etc. Lots of people say, “I can’t believe I get paid to do what I do. I don’t consider it work.” I woke up this morning struggling with this concept as it relates to being a pastor. I try my best during “office hours” to do office sorts of things (emails, letters, phone calls, website updates, worship guides, service planning, meeting with people, etc.). I also use part of it for study. Part of me feels guilty using that time for prayer, skimming a book, or reading the Bible. Who else in their jobs outside the church could do that? It just doesn’t seem fair. Yet many people would say, “Yeah, but you’re a pastor. It’s your job to pray/study/read the Bible, etc.” I understand what they are saying. After all, what more important thing can a pastor do then spend time with God? Even Billy Graham wished he did that more. And I do believe that a pastor’s calling is going to look different than someone who works a “secular” job. But part of me wants to disagree. Here are some reasons why: 1. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus got up early in the morning to find solitude with God and pray. If it were anyone’s job to pray/study, surely it was the Son of God’s job to do so! Yet it seems He was occupied with spending time with people during “normal hours,” and He found time outside of operating hours to spend in solitude with God. 2. Martin Luther is quoted as saying something along the lines of “Today is going to be so busy for me, I can’t afford NOT to get up super early and pray for 4 hours beforehand.” 3. If I went to bed 1 hour after we put our children to bed (on a normal night), I could easily wake up at 4-5 am and...

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