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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Sunday’s Shroud

Sunday is Resurrection day.

It is a day of life.

It is a day of redemption.

It is a day of celebration.

Why, then, are my Sundays so often shrouded in inadequacy, insecurity, and insignificance?

Did what I just do matter?

The preparation, the planning, the praying, the proclaiming–did any of it make any difference whatsoever?

Would people’s lives seem to be as unaffected had I merely read a few quotes, told a nice story, and added a loosely connected verse from the Bible along the way?

This is Sunday. The Lord’s day.

In fact, the only way I know to carry on as a pastor is to remember that it is the Lord’s day, not my day. It is not my time to shine. What I do is not for me. It is for God’s people by His power.

This is no cry for adulation, nor a self-consumed attempt at self-pity.

This is, rather, the unbroken cry that God is active. He may not appear in the rushing wind, or the rupturing earthquake, or the raging fire. Most often in pastoral ministry, God invades that thin silence known to Elijah and other prophets.

This is dedicated to those who press on in the invisible work of pastoral ministry. Your labor, dear friend, is not in vain.

 

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ReBlog: Stop Smurfing the Gospel

This is gold

Stop Smurfing the Gospel.

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A Pastoral Way of Using Language

Eugene Peterson is prying into my life again. He’s kind of annoying that way. Some authors I read and go, “Oh, that’s nice.” Peterson I read and go, “Oh, I’m sinful.” “Oh, I’m a bad pastor.” “Do I love Jesus?”

I am rereading Peterson’s memoir The Pastor and am on chapter 27 where Peterson speaks of three men whose lives and work he used to stay anchored in the rough waters of ministry.

One of those men, Baron Friedrich von Hugel, gave Peterson a “pastoral way of using language.” Marks of this way include: being “conversationalnot condescending, not manipulative, but attentive and prayerful. Not instructional, preparing my parishioners to pass examinations on matters of sin and salvation. Not diagnostic, treating these unique souls as problems to be fixed.”

The brief section on von Hugel concludes with Peterson’s summation, “I didn’t want to be a pastor who talked too much, who knew too much. I didn’t want to be a pastor who treated souls as dittos,” (226).

To treat souls as dittos means that people are problems to be fixed and overlook the fact that every soul is unique. General advice and/or superficial diagnosis via psychological categories won’t cut it.

Pastoral ministry is the hard work of knowing and loving people enough to try not to fix them but rather walk faithfully with them no matter the slowness of pace. This is as unsexy of a definition of ministry as I could think of. But it’s true. There are no shortcuts.

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The Most Important Word in Your Church’s Name

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That’s the name of the rural church I pastor in Sullivan County, TN.

We are not a congregation of academic elites or paragons of business.

We are a blue-collar congregation. Hard workers. Many are retired after working at one job for 40 years.

We are a loyal people.

And we are a Christian church, a branch of what is known historically as The Restoration Movement (catch up on it here if you’d like).

Down the road from our building about two miles is a Baptist church. I’ve heard disparaging comments from some of our people about those people.

They don’t believe like we do. Which really means, “We’re right, they’re wrong.”

I have spoken with people from that church, nice people from what I could tell. And I’ve had a conversation with one gal who laid out why she thinks we’re wrong, and in the process managed to take jabs at the Catholic Church, which I’ve heard our people do as well.

This, and more, much more, has led me to say on occasion from the pulpit that we will cease to be who God wants us to be until the most important word on our respective signs is Church. Hear the words of the apostle Paul: 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 EAGER to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body (church) and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all (Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Campbellites, Catholics, etc) and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6, ESV)

I wonder where Paul got that? You could read the entirety of Jesus’ prayer for the oneness of his people in John 17. And also here in John 13:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Does this mean we accept what everyone believes without question or testing? No. But it does mean we do it in such a way that Christ is honored and the unity of the Spirit is maintained in a bond of peace. That’s what I don’t see.

And I don’t think we’ll see it until Church becomes the most important word on our signs.

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Whose Approval and What I Approve

The apostle Paul writes to the churches of Galatia, “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or a I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

It’s only one verse.

But in that one verse, Paul shreds his hearers to the core, namely, me.

I can’t seek the approval of man AND the approval of God.

Well, I can, but in the end I’ll favor the people around me.

So as you look at your own life and consider what you’re approving, that is, what you accept, enjoy, turn a blind eye to, refuse to address/confront, whose approval are you seeking?

Whose approval you seek will ultimately determine what you approve.

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