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When You Get Nothing Out of Church

We are surrounded by the next big break through, the next trend, to current fad, “flavor of the week”. It’s the way the world operates. Constantly fighting for our attention because we become bored easily and whatever has our attention has our money. We also feel the pressures of social media, that tell us we need to show the world how much we have our life together. We tell the our friends and co-workers “We’re fun and exciting making a difference in the world!” Frankly, it’s all just tiring.

I have been reading through (little by little over the last few months) Mike Horton’s book “Ordinary” and have been reminded how much is sacrificed to go after the trend and excitement and avoid an ordinary everyday life. Horton puts it this way “The real problem is that our values are changing and the new ones are wearing us out.” It’s actually pretty interesting to think about it, when put this way. In pursuit of the excitement we pass over the opportunity to grow meaning where we are. To develop the relationships that are established and thus have any meaningful growth.

I was listening to a podcast this week and reminded that the trends and the big exciting draws are throughout the Church also. We want to come and experience something amazing, we want to be entertained. We’ve taken our expectations from culture, and imposed them on God’s Word and worship. The story needs to be moving and quick with action. Worship needs to be entertaining, with lights, drama, humor draped with the current hip tones. The idea of the ordinary means of grace, Word, Sacrament and Prayer, aren’t enough. We want more.

What happens after we hear the Gospel preached, partake from the Lord’s Table and are showered in his grace through prayer and singing? Sometimes you walk out feeling refreshed, encouraged, happy as you face the demands of the world. Sometimes you walk out tired, stressed, or anxious as you face the demands of the world. This first thinks, “I’m so glad I worshipped today” the second thinks, “I got nothing out of it”. Either scenario happens but the difference is our perspective.

The bottom line is that the Christian life isn’t like the life of the culture we live in. Jeremiah was a prophet for decades with no response from the people he ministered to. The apostles were all martyrs, save John who died in exile. And of course Jesus, who was despised and rejected by his own to the point of dying on the Cross where he was to endure the eternal displeasure of God on our behalf.

The Christian life is a wonderful life, but it is wonderful in the way God has said it is wonderful and not in the way the world has. What some may consider ordinary, plain, everyday, we call wonderful. The simple is beautiful and allows us to focus on the goal, our joy in Jesus. We have that modeled for us by Jesus, as the writer of Hebrews tells us

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2 ESV)

We don’t need a trend to know God is working, we proclaim Jesus is alive!

When We Receive Unwanted Motivation

I’m a member of a gym where the coaches habitually communicate to us through the week to motivate, encourage, inform, or even lecture when members aren’t either working hard or just not showing up. This was a message recently posted for our group

It’s Monday freaks! Set goals this week and follow through. Figure out when you can get in to the gym and don’t make excuses for yourself. See you at 6:30.

Some are filled with more colorful language as you can imagine but the point is clear. The recipients of the message are members who pay to get in shape, learn healthy habits, and of course for the leadership to guide them through it. Because they are members of the gym they are told to act like they belong to a gym and show up.  (more…)

Pastoral Hospital Visits: A Doctor of the Soul

I remember the first time I was going to visit a person in the hospital. I had no idea what I would say, I barely knew the person, I had no idea where I was going, and I didn’t know what to do with the Bible that I carried in. It was stressful because I had seen the senior pastor do hospital visits. Every time he did them they were effortless and he brought joy to the room when he entered. It was like someone they had been hoping to see finally arrived. I felt like I was clumsy and about to bring awkwardness. Not only was I unexpected but I was unknown since I was new. I had to stop and pray before I continued. On one hand I knew this was something I had to do as a pastor. I needed to go in and try my best and then come out and learn from it. Additionally, I honestly believed the person in the hospital needed this as well. So this was for them and me. We both needed this. So I prayed.

I then googled some potential Bible verses on my phone and in the process ran across some articles. It appeared I wasn’t the first pastor to run across this type of uncertainty. I don’t recall if I read this on an article online or if it was something I read in a book, but I know I didn’t come up with this realization. That I was a doctor of the soul. And I was there to minister to their soul. With this new found “revelation” in my heart I was renewed in my motivation and encouraged in what I could say and what I could do. This is now my mindset when I visit a person in the hospital. They have doctors to care for their bodies. But I’m a doctor of the soul and that’s why I’m there. (more…)

Significance in Saturday

3cross-1157332The Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is often overlooked. It’s one of those days we don’t really know what to do with. The Church calendar calls this Saturday “Holy Saturday”. It’s as if the Church historically didn’t want to let this day that seemed insignificant be neglected.

This is the day after the chaos of the trial, torture, crucifixion and burial but the day before the glorious resurrection. On this day we reflect on the death of Jesus of Nazareth as he would have laid dead in a tomb 2000 years ago. I find on this day the readings from the Book of Common Prayer very helpful to guide us on what we should think of on this Holy Saturday.  (more…)

A Pastor’s Vacation

sundown-family-1553623This past week I took a vacation. But it wasn’t a vacation where I loaded up the family and drove across the country. I didn’t plan a get away to some remote place. I simply stayed home and got in as much dad and husband time as I could.

One of the lessons a pastor will soon learn is that everyone wants your time. People have logistic questions about the church, people have strategy questions about the church, someone wants to grab coffee, someone wants to hang out and talk about life, someone is in the hospital, someone is having a baby, someone needs help with understanding something in Scripture, someone needs you to speak to their friend. (more…)

Can Christians Serve in the Military?

Veteran’s Day is a time to thank those men and women who have served the nation. Sometimes Christians rethink their service in the military during this time. They question their professions and reconsider their commitments to the nation in light of their commitment to Christ. Should Christians, who are part of the kingdom of God, participate in worldly, national affairs (such as the military, civil service, etc.)? I say yes and here are a  few biblical examples we can look to: Soldiers speaking to John the Baptist, the centurion speaking to Jesus, and Abram (Abraham).

When John the Baptist begins his public ministry crying out to the nation of Israel to repent, there is a great response. People from everywhere come to hear him and are responding by being baptized and also seeking instructions on what to do with their re-dedicated life of obedience to God. When the Soldiers come to John and ask what they should do, he tells them

“Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”” (Luke 3:14 ESV)

(more…)

Church Planting Recruitment under the Guise of Friendship

I forgot I had written this and it is still true…