Pastor, What Does Your Demeanor Say About Your God?

Because of Easter, we preachers are not permitted despair. There is certainly enough failure and disappointment in the preaching life to understand why depression, disillusionment, and despair could be considered three curses of the preaching ministry. Despair is most understandable among some of our most conscientious and dedicated preachers. Any pastor who is not tempted by despair has probably given in to the world too soon, is expecting too little of the preached word. Weekly confrontation with the gap between what God dares to say and what we are able to hear leads many of our best and brightest to despondency.

– Will Willimon

The whole article can be read here.

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Refined to Shine as the Trophies of God

I was never schooled in the gold purification process. Consider it a failure of the modern education system.

But when I resolved to preach a sermon series on suffering, I inevitably came upon 1 Peter 1:6-7In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament’s most famous sufferer, Job, said of his own trials that when God had tried him, he would come out as gold.

When I did a little reading and googling to check out this connection between suffering, fire, and gold, I was amazed to find this picture.

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Above is an 860kg chunk of gold core. That’s just a shade under 1900 pounds! And the little pill looking sliver of gold is the 30g of pure gold extracted from that rock. 30g is about 1oz…a slice of bread. Gold is about $1,150/ounce right now. So there you go. It’s valuable.

But think about what God communicates through the scriptures about your faith and the fires of suffering/trials/hardships.

Your faith could enter a season of testing looking like the giant rock above. It’s covered in what’s called dross, which is the waste and junk covering up the good stuff. It’s like going to a flea market or garage sale and finding the treasure amidst the trash.

But there’s gold within–pure gold! It takes the fire to melt away the useless parts to expose that of incredible worth. So how crazy would it be NOT to put that rock through the fire and melt away the dross?

If that’s true with gold…which is as good as pavement in God’s kingdom…wouldn’t God then be unloving to not put us through fires if we come out shining as bright as the trophies we put on shelves? Follow. the trophy metaphor

The way Eugene Peterson summarizes this text is spot on:  When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory (The Message).

We love trophies, so much that now kids get them for mere participation, not even winning. I recall when a ribbon sufficed for such madness.

Professional athletes receive gold rings for winning championships.

Actors and actresses get their Oscars or Golden Globes and put them on display for all to see.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, puts our faith through the fire and is pleased, like a Father, to display the end result for all to see, the purified faith of His children. We become His trophies.

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Would You Rather…?

You know the game.

I ask would you rather live at the beach or in the mountains? You answer and then fire a different scenario back at me. doorman

It’s not a bad way to pass time on a long car ride or while sitting at the airport.

But here’s one for you (more for followers of Jesus, but open to all):

Would you rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God or dwell in the tents of wickedness?

Wait. I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t sound like a hard choice when the word wickedness is used.

But really think about it before answering.

If you answer the former–that you would rather be a doorkeeper (like the guy pictured)–here’s my follow up: Does your life answer in the same fashion?

Do you earnestly believe and live in such a fashion that says spending a day in the courts of God as a doorkeeper is better than a thousand days at Disney, ESPN Zone, the race track, gym, movie theater, etc.?

I have been so quick to affirm and proclaim lofty assertions with my mouth only to recognize that my life indicts me as being double-minded.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. ~Psalm 84:10

 

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Walking the Fine Lines of Leadership

Leadership is a world unto itself.

Just walk through Barnes & Noble or do a quick search on Amazon.com for leadership books (over 130,000 results).

Then you have all the different kinds of leadership, or at least the sectors in which a person may lead: education, church, non-profit, fortune 500 companies, etc.

I myself am concerned with the non-profit sector, especially church and education. What I’ve discovered is there are innumerable fine lines of leadership.

For instance…

– Where’s the line between leading and appeasing? When do I go from caring about someone’s opinion to catering to that same opinion?

– Where’s the line between shepherding and babying? When do I go from helping guide someone through a situation to holding their hands, feeding them, burping them?

– Where’s the line between requesting and rebuking? When do I go from making an ask or urging involvement to reprimanding?

There are better, smarter, wiser leaders who have answers to these questions, and I’m sure collectively the blogosphere could have a field day with questions like these. But it doesn’t change the fact that every leader, no matter the sector, has to walk these lines and know when and where and how to cross them.

 

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What Makes Someone Spiritual?

It’s become a bit of a buzzword in the last decade or so to talk of spirituality (no doubt it has been talked about for a 1000 years).

From Oprah to Deepak Choprah to Eckhart Tolle…which I’m convinced are all Oprah in disguise…spirituality is a money maker. But what does it make of people? spiritual-healer6

What happens when you add Christian as an adjective to spirituality? What is Christian spirituality?

For most of my life I equated spirituality with Bible/theology smarts. He or she who knew the most MUST be the most spiritual.

I should have learned from seminary that smart does not spiritual make. Some of the smartest people I’ve known, the most impressive intellects, are not what anyone would call spiritual.

So what is spiritual in the Christian faith?

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...

The apostle Paul talks about this fruit–singular–as being the “fruit of the Spirit.” If the Holy Spirit is alive and active within your life, this is the kind of person you will be, a spiritual person.

You can have zero ability to work with the Greek or Hebrew text of the Bible, no understanding of world religions, and understand none of the God-talk that happens in seminaries and yet be the most spiritual person within a 100-square miles. Having money won’t help you be spiritual; in fact, it may hurt. Driving a Prius won’t make you any more spiritual. Eating organic, while healthy, isn’t spiritual.

Spiritual ends up being the relational overflow of a fundamental overhaul via the gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, that fruit is unnatural. It’s going to take something outside of us/you/me to have any chance of being a fruitful–spiritual–person.

Go with God.

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Anyone Up for A Nauseating Pastor Post About Snow?

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Photo taken by my wife, Lindsey, this morning

 

The most viewed posts on this blog–or any really–are usually ones that have to do with family, especially if the blogger includes pictures. I have put up a few pictures of the kids and had 200 views in a day.

On the other hand, I pour my head and heart into a thought-provoking theological treatise after churning over a text and get a solid 20 views in two weeks. Explain that one to me!

I think it speaks loudly to the fact that people care about real, tangible, experiential types of things more than what is perceived to be merely heady. The failure on my part and other pastors/writers is that we often feel satisfied with having communicated the theological point or explaining a scriptural text…but so what? What does it matter? How does the head information connect to anyone’s heart and hands?

After all, the Bible should speak as loudly today as it has for thousands of years. And that brings me to snow. What does understanding the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross have to do with snow?

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

…or…the plea of David after his treacherous web of sin involving Bathsheba

Cleanse me with hyssop (a nice minty plant), and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

You, dear child of God, have been washed clean. Though your sins are as red as blood, they shall be washed as white as freshly fallen snow by the blood of Jesus that ran red. That’s the move from head to heart. Now, to the hands.

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)

We can revel in rapture over the forgiveness of God and his generous grace, but if we are not as quick to extend that to others, what change has really taken place inside of us?

Head –> Heart –> Hands

Grace to you.

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Snow Days and Snot

snowdayThis past week was no doubt cause for much excitement on the part of students in snow-laden sectors of the country. In our neck of the woods (the top right corner of Tennessee) kids were out the entire week.

That means, among other things, I was home all week. I had never considered going to work a vacation until being at home, where I was held inside against my will by snow and snot.

Our kids were sick. All three. Fevers. Snot. The big D–not Dallas or divorce. Hacking coughs. Combine all the ingredients with the volatility of being 3.5, 2, and 10 months and, well, I don’t even know what to call it. Use your own word.

But what if I had worked all week?

My wife would have been at home all day…alone…with these beautiful monsters. Even when they’re not sick it’s hard enough.

As soon as I forget how vital Lindsey is to the fabric of the universe and the formation of our children, there’s a sick day or snow or something else day to remind me. Moms are nothing short of super heroes. You all are the sticky stuff that holds other stuff together. And you are usually covered in snot from the kids…which may very well be the sticky stuff I’m thinking about.

I love you, Lindsey. And other mommies, I don’t love you in that way…but I hope the good Lord has people around you who do and who let you know it.

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