Longing for His Home

Home.

When I think of that word, there’s a longing. The “O” is long, almost tremulous. And for the last two weeks, I have longed for home.

We went on vacation. And it was a good vacation. We visited friends we haven’t seen in years. We visited family we haven’t seen in years. We visited my parents. I got to play violin with my dad for worship. And the time spent with each person was far, far too short. I did not want to part with any of them.

But home beckoned.

I longed to be back home. Back where I belong. Back with my family in my house, in my town, with my congregation, and sleeping again in my own bed. I was ready to get back to directly serving rather than “just” recharging. And as we began the return voyage on Monday, my heart tore. I wanted to see my parents more. But oh, the call of home was so great. And I longed to return.

When we finally entered the front door of our house last night, it was indeed a homecoming. No one waited to throw us a party. No one had prettied it up while we were gone (though the woman we arranged to take care of our lawn did indeed do a fantastic job). It was nothing special… beyond being the place where we belong.

Where we belong. (more…)

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Review: Ready to Return?

Ready to Return? The Need for a Fundamental Shift in Church Culture to Save a Generation
by Ken Ham with Jeff Kinley; Research by Britt Beemer

Why have so many 20-somethings left the church, and what will it take to reclaim them? How can we make sure that 20-somethings that remain don’t disappear? This book uses research to show what went wrong and what the church can do about it.

…or so the back of the book claims. (more…)

Late for My Own Sermon

How could I show up fifteen minutes late for worship? I’m the freaking pastor! My family scuttles in to a row of seats as I rush back to get my robe on. The guest pastor is sort of hopping from leg to leg – his granddaughter is being baptized today, and he asked permission to step in and do that. So not only am I late, showing disrespect to my congregation, but I’m looking bad in front of a brother in the ministry.

Not just any brother in the ministry.

The freaking president of the seminary. A man who taught me.

He leans over and whispers to me, “You good to go?”

I nod.

He stands to start the service. And as he does, he sort of quirks his head like I remember him doing so often in class. “You know, this sort of reminds me…” And he launches into an incredible devotion, just off the top of his head, like always did in class. Just taking something that just happened and using it as an example of Law or Gospel, marrying it to a biblical text, and just making the sacred an everyday thing in the best way.

And he’s doing it here in my congregation, where I just showed up fifteen minutes late for worship. And then I glance at the bulletin.

I don’t remember what I’m preaching on. (more…)

Review: To Africa With Love

To Africa with Love
by E. H. Wendland

In 1962, Pastor E. H. Wendland was commissioned as a missionary to central Africa. This book, published in 1974, sums up his theology, methodology, and missiology. It talks about the difficulties and blessings of preaching Christ in a changing culture and a sometimes dangerous place. The back of the book includes a number of short stories of things that happened to him and fellow missionaries as they sought to preach the Gospel.

I’m honestly disappointed in this book. I feel that perhaps Wendland was tasked to write a book about his time as a missionary, and he was given instructions in what to include. Rather than go deep in any area, this book feels like it’s an inch deep in vast waters. None of it is bad. None of it is false. And yet, I feel like I didn’t get to learn a whole lot, nor that he went in depth in any one thing.

Now, it may be that since I’ve already received training and have experience as a pastor, much of what he wrote was old news. Perhaps a layman reading this book would find it the perfect depth. I confess that. Yet, throughout, I wanted more information on pretty much any one subject. Wendland often will talk about generalities, but often seems to refrain from specific stories to illustrate. I do understand the need to be careful about what you share, but it made much of it harder to grasp. I find as I think about my reading that I recall his specific stories at the end of the book much better than most of the text! (more…)

Review: The World’s Last Night

The World’s Last Night and Other Essays
by C. S. Lewis

In this collection of essays, C. S. Lewis addresses a number of topics in thoughtful, witty, and direct ways. Lewis talks about the possibility of life on other planets, why no one seems to like the doctrine of Final Judgment, and has Screwtape (of The Screwtape Letters) propose a toast. Taken together, this quick read will lead readers to deeper thoughts about culture and our reaction to what God says.

After the last few books leaving me… unfulfilled, I wanted to read something that would likely leave me at least thoughtful, if not edified. I also wanted something fairly quick to read. I devoured the book in two days, but easily could have done it in one if I’d wanted. The essays average less than twenty pages each, making the reading swift. And it’s C. S. Lewis, so while I won’t agree with everything he writes, he’ll at least get me thinking.

And this volume delivered. (more…)

Vacation Cometh

I’m leaving in four hours. I’ve had an hourly countdown going for the last few days. Most of this week I had a hard time concentrating on ministry because vacation is coming soon.

If this place is so awesome, why am I eager to leave?

I’ve been at my new congregation for a year now. This place has been such a blessing. There’s still sin and plenty of it. People still desperately need Jesus here. I get frustrated yet. But overall, I have been given a year to heal and to begin a very different ministry that seems to fit me well. I rejoice in what God has given me here. I rejoice that though I am such a sinful, pathetic minister, God continues to forgive my sin and even allows me to share that forgiveness with his people.

But I still wanna leave.

Honestly, I think I know what it is. Even work that’s a joy can wear on a person. I’ve been here well over a year. Last year’s vacation was moving here, which isn’t a vacation at all. That means it’s been two years since I’ve really been able to have a few days to rest, and two years ago was… very difficult on me. I’m just worn out, and I’m excited for this chance to be refreshed. I’m excited to visit old friends I’ve not seen in a while. I’m excited to visit my family.

And I’m reminded: Even in the Garden of Eden there was rest. Even before there was sin, God gave Adam and Eve rest every seventh day. Even when work was a joy, God told them to pause once a week.

If God gave rest there, then it’s good to rest here, where sin tears at us in this broken world.

I can’t wait to get going. After worship and Bible study today we’re scooting out of here. Because rest, too, is a gift from God.

Oh! Incidentally, I may not be posting during my vacation. Maybe I will. The reviews will autopost in the meantime. But I shall return, to continue growing in ministry.

Because God is good, whether we’re working or resting, because he has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature. He purchased and won me with his blood. And I can rest in him… even as I’m resting on vacation.

MOAR WRITING!

A few months ago I wrote about how I was trying to figure out how to handle the writing side of who I am. If it’s of interest to you, I’ve started a new blog Wanted: One New Earth. It will focus on writing about writing, talking to other authors, and exploring worlds other authors have set up. I’m specifically setting it up so I can post sporadically, so hopefully I can keep up with it.

If you feel interested, wonder on over. If not, well, Ordained for Growth will just keep on keepin’ on.

Review: Little People, Big God

Little People Big God: Stories of Little People in the Bible Used by a Big God to Impact Their World
by Woodrow Kroll

There are some big names in the Bible: Moses. David. Peter. Paul. These are massive heroes! But what about the little people? In this book, Woodrow Kroll takes a look at thirteen “little people” from both the Old and New Testaments and shows how God used little-known people to accomplish big things.

In short: Don’t read this book. It is VeggieTales: it tells the history competently, but it’s all moralism and no Christ. It’s all “do this” and no “it is finished.” In fact, over and over again it states that all God wants is for us to do our best: “God keeps good records. His rewards are commensurate with our faithfulness in service. He is perfectly just and eager to advance us; He is looking for loyalty and obedience” (76). “[Micaiah] did what God asked, and that’s all God expects of any of us” (107). “What does Jesus expect from you? Just do what you can. That’s all Jesus asks” (141).

What’s the big deal? Instead of pointing me to Jesus, it points me to me. It drives me on. It is works righteousness disguised with a veneer of Christianity. It doesn’t show that these “little people” were sinners forgiven and loved by God. It doesn’t show them motivated by God’s mercy and grace. It lifts them up as examples that we should be like. All that will do is drive me to either pride at my accomplishments or despair that I’m not good enough.

On top of that, the book does seem to lead to a theology that says, “If you obey, God will give you an abundant life:” “To enjoy the abundant life that Christ intends for us, however, we have to live life God’s way” (20) Again, that’s junk. Jesus himself promised we would have trouble in this world. Our comfort is not an abundant life; it is Jesus, who knew suffering for us, to give us peace with God and a home in heaven.

The book does give a few positive messages. For instance, it does insist that even if the world never recognizes us, God sees our service. Using these little-known people as an example, it shows that we are valued by God. “Outside God’s Word, their names may appear only in Bible trivia games, but more important, they are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27). While they may not be known among men, they are known by God (John 10:3). And they have left a heritage that is of value today” (10). This is a good message… but it’s not worth the poison of the other messages here.

Do you look to find value? Read again how far Jesus went for you, and remember he did it for the joy set before him. You are valued by God, but not because of your service. You are valued because of Jesus’s service. And that means your value doesn’t depend on your actions – and that’s a comforting thought.

52 Books in 52 Weeks

I have an addiction to ink. I take it in until it overflows and pours out of me. Maybe you’ve noticed.

The beasts line my shelves, breathing at me, tempting me with their covers and their words strung together with such artistry. The beckon with their pages and urge me to take them in.

And for this last year… I have. Oh, have I!

Starting May 24th, 2017, and continuing every week since then, I’ve been able to read at least one book a week with the eye of improving my ministry, either through digging deeper into God’s Word or improving an ability or becoming more knowledgeable in some related subject. Apparently it started with Chivalry and has continued and will continue weekly at least until August, since I’ve already written enough reviews to last until then.

It has been a trip. I’ve read some real dreck. I’ve also read some books that are amazing. Then again, I’ve read some real frustrating volumes. Some have been quick reads; others took me much, much longer.

And I’ve enjoyed it. By forcing myself to post reviews here, I’ve kept up my reading. I’ve learned. The percentage of books I own that I’ve actually read has grown! Basically, by being public with what I read, I’ve forced myself to keep going and think a little more critically about what I’m reading. What am I getting out of this? What would someone else get out of this?

Another benefit of this last year has been an increase in my reading speed. Some things still take me longer; I’m currently reading a Michael Horton book that I can’t breeze through so much. However, other books I can finish within a day pretty easily. I did it with The Ragamuffin Gospel and each of the God’s People series has taken me about a half hour. I appreciate being able to wrap things up so quickly!

Reading so much has also let me read much more widely than I might otherwise. I was able to read a book on the craft of preaching (review forthcoming!). I tackled the Lutheran Confessions. I read about the Jewish Trinity and technology and justification and so much more! I tried to take in a myriad of subjects from myriad sources, and I think I did pretty well there.

But… all things must come to an end.

I’m still going to be reading this next year, of course. No addiction can let me off that easily! But instead of trying to keep up a weekly posting schedule for reviews, I want to tackle some deeper books that will simply take me longer to read. Maybe because I’m so far ahead, it’ll still end up being a weekly review. Maybe not. But I’m not going to force myself to read that quickly, at least for the next year. After that? Who knows. Maybe I’ll try reading 52 books in 52 weeks again!

In the meantime: What do you do to continue growing in your abilities? Do you try to keep to a schedule, or do you have a goal? If you read, do you try to mix it up with different topics, or do you keep to one sub-genre?

With whatever you read, I hope you’re blessed by it!

Review: Every Moment Holy

Every Moment Holy
by Douglas Kaine McKelvey

Jesus is the Lord not just of the Sabbath, but every day of the week. In this collection of liturgies for everyday life, Douglas McKelvey uses his strong talents for poetry to help the reader connect their daily activities with the grace of God. While many of the liturgies are designed to be spoken in small groups, most can easily be read as a single person praising their Maker. Liturgies are provided for various hours of the day, mealtimes, being in awkward situations, drinking coffee, doing laundry, finishing a good book, going camping, and welcoming a pet into the family, as well as many, many more.

This. Book. Frustrates. Me. So. Much.

The book is one of the most attractive books I’ve ever held. It feels like leather binding. It has delicate scrollwork. The book invites you to simply hold it and feel it in your hands. This book, more than many others I’ve read, is an artifact worth its existence simply in how it was formed.

I’ve looked forward to reading this collection for months; I ordered it a good three months before it finally arrived. It’s from Rabbit Room Press, who also published The Lay of the Lord. They’ve earned my willingness to try what they put out.

And… oh. I am torn. (more…)