Month: June 2012

It’s the Pastor’s Job.

Lies we tell ourselves about the church:

It’s the pastor’s job.

 

You have a pastor. You have a man who’s staying here. We said way back at the beginning of this series that now isn’t the time to get busy. Now is the time to get into God’s Word. And it’s true! Now isn’t the time to “get busy.” But we need to be aware of falling for the opposite lie: Since it’s not time to get busy, it must be time to relax! Time to sit back and let the pastor take care of everything! And here we have the exact opposite lie from “We need to get busy.” This lie says, “It’s the pastor’s job.” What is the pastor’s job? What’s the pastor supposed to do? (more…)

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It doesn’t matter anymore.

When I first set out to be a pastor, I was determined that I wouldn’t lose my name. What do I mean by that? Well, consider what you call the person who leads worship in your church. So often, it’s just “Pastor.” I wanted to make sure I’d still have my name. Pastor Luke! That’s what I’d be! Yeah! (Pastor Italiano was OK, but I much preferred Pastor Luke.)

And now I’m here… and it doesn’t matter anymore.

I chalk it up to the Holy Spirit growing me and not to any revelation on my part. I don’t care if people use my name. I don’t care if they know who I am. I care that they know Jesus. And that’s what matters to me!

I’m reminded of John the Baptist’s reaction when his disciples told him that Jesus was getting to be more popular than he was. “I must decrease; he must increase.” And it’s true. I can’t save anyone. I didn’t die to take away anyone’s sins. If people trust me, they trust a person. But when they trust Jesus, they are trusting someone that will never let them down. They are trusting someone who will give them everything. And if that means they forget who I am… well, what am I? I only point to Christ.

So who cares if someone doesn’t know my name? Who cares if they all forget me? It’s not about me. The ministry should never be about the minister. It’s about Jesus.

So, if you forget who I am and just call me pastor? Well, that’s just fine. That title is still such an honor, I am content with that.

As long as we do everything right, we won’t have any problems.

Lies we tell ourselves about the church:

As long as we do everything right, the church won’t have any problems.

 

Over the last weeks we’ve seen a bunch of lies, a bunch of pitfalls we could run into. As long as we don’t get busy, but instead bury ourselves in God’s Word, so we know and do what he says – well, God will bless us! As long as we remember that we don’t grow the church, that we simply proclaim what Jesus has done – well, God will bless us! As long as we remember that the church is all about what Jesus has done to rescue us from sin, not the physical pains of this world – well, God will bless us! As long as we remember that church isn’t about looking good, but about confessing how bad we’ve been and instead rejoicing in who God has made us to be – well, God will bless us! As long as we remember all that, well, we should have smooth sailing, right?

That’s another lie, and a dangerous one for us. The lie says, “As long as we do everything right, the church won’t have any problems.”

It’s tempting to think that the early church didn’t have any problems. We’ve heard about explosive growth. We’ve heard that yeah, there were a few problems, but overall the church was doing well!

The early Christian church had enemies. Acts tells us that the church was growing so fast, the Jewish leaders were jealous. There were a few dust-ups. The Jewish leaders, a group called the Sanhedrin, had already called in Peter and commanded him not to talk about Jesus any more. The apostles ignore the order and preach about Jesus anyway! Well, the Sanhedrin has all the leaders of the church arrested. That night, an angel came and released them. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he told them, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” And so the apostles go and tell people about Jesus! (more…)

Something I’ll never get used to:

Yesterday a member of the congregation told me: “It’s like you said last week, pastor…” and they continued to quote the sermon at me. That’s really scary.

If they had quoted the Bible, I would be proud of them. But they quoted me. I realize that this is a compliment; it means that I am communicating well and in a way that is memorable for at least this congregation member. And what they quoted is certainly biblical. The problem I have is that they used my words.

What happens if I go off the deep end? What happens if what they remember is that time I spoke the wrong thing? What happens if they take as their example my sinful weakness? It scares me.

I pray that God preserves me in faith. This is a worthy prayer and one every Christian can (and should!) pray. I pray that my Father guides me so that I don’t mislead anyone by false doctrine, nor by accidental deception. And all I can do here is continually point to Jesus, not myself. It’s not my sermon I want anyone to remember. It’s God’s truth. I want them to remember the Word.

And I suppose when I am faithful, it’s honoring and humbling that God would use my sermon to bring his truth to his people…

…but it still scares me, and I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever get used to it.

A Rose, By Any Other Name…

If you’re observant or nitpicky, you may see that this post is being written by some bloke named Jon. The name lies. This is still Luke. However, from now on, you’ll see the name “Jon” instead.

Why?

Short answer: I’ve got a pen name, and the other blog I write for (Seek the New Earth) is the one I link to for any “outside” writing stuffs. It’s useful to have my writing name here and my pen name match up. Therefore — ta-dah! A “new” name. You can expect the same stuff showing up here, though, so never fear!

All right. As the poster up above says, move along. Nothing to see here.

Things I Never Thought I’d Say:

“Tonight is a great night for evangelism!”

So, last night, I was returning from a visit, and it was just a great night. The temperature was comfortable, the sun at the right angle, and all I wanted to do was keep doing evangelism visits.

You know, I think I may have to rename the blog “God Laughs” if he keeps this up. He grows us all, doesn’t he?

We need to look good in church.

Lies we tell ourselves about the church:

We need to look good in church.

 

You ever notice how many people are doing “just fine” on Sunday morning? As a society, we’re very good at pretending. And we are experts at it Sunday morning. Don’t believe me? Think about what language you use when someone cuts you off while you’re driving. Do you use the same language here in church? Are you the same person relaxing with friends that you are here?  Why not? We’ve fallen for the lie: “We need to look good in church.” We don’t act like we do the rest of the week when we come here. We want to look good. Why?

Whatever your answer on why you want to look good for church, you’re not alone. People have always wanted to look good in church. In the early Christian church, many of the believers were very generous. In fact, Acts tells us that there was not a single person was in need, because everyone wanted to share what they had. For instance, a man named Barnabus sold a field he owned and set down all the money at the apostles’ feet, as a sign showing that he didn’t keep back a single cent for himself. It became a thing: whenever someone sold property and wanted to give every last cent of that sale to the church, they’d lay it at the apostles’ feet. They wanted to present a “whole burnt offering” – holding nothing back for themselves. They came with pure motives, purely wanting to give to God. And those people were thanked. They got attention for their good deeds.

Well, you can bet some people took notice of that and wanted some attention for themselves. They weren’t giving because they wanted to give. A lesson, from Acts 5: (more…)

Pride: Lesson Not Learned

We like education — yes we do! We like education! How ’bout you?

So, a week ago we started a new Bible Information Class. You may recall that I struggled with this before. I invited a good number of the same people along with new prospects. Lots of invites, though this time around I’d like to think I had more realistic expectations. I prayed. I prayed a lot that God would grab these people and bring them. I want to show people Jesus. I want to be used to grow those who already have faith. This is a good way to do that. So, I invited lots of people.

Who came?

Six people came. One of them is not a member.

So, I feel a bit like a failure. I’m thrilled that the one non-member came. That’s sweet. I’m excited to be teaching her. However, I feel a bit like a failure.

(It’s not about me it’s not about me it’s not about me it’s not about me I’ll get this right eventually)

But… of the other five who came, three are church council members. And this… this is a win. We have been talking in council for months that if the church council doesn’t take the lead in growing in Christ, why would anyone be interested in learning more about Jesus? We’ve been talking for a long time about the council demonstrating their growth so others can be encouraged by it. I saw little evidence that God’s Word was working in their hearts to make them want to grow in Christ.

And now three in BIC, to demonstrate their desire to grow in Christ?

This is sweet! This is a win! We can do this! God may not be growing our church numerically at the moment… but it sure looks like he’s growing us in maturity!

Church is about helping the less fortunate.

Lies we tell ourselves about church:

Church is about helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

 

Some of you may have noticed that right now Kenosha is not an economic paradies. There’re a lot of people who are having trouble feeding their families. You don’t have to look far to see that we’re surrounded by those who are less fortunate than we are. Shouldn’t we be doing something about that? If we are the body, where are his hands healing? Shouldn’t we have a food shelf or a fund to help those in greater need? Isn’t that what church is about – helping those who are less fortunate than we are? Actually, no. That’s not what church is about. It’s a popular lie, though. A lot of people think church is about helping the poor. People have attempted to guilt me many times into giving to them because that’s what good Christians do, after all. They help the poor.

And it is a good thing to help the poor. Jesus does command us to help the poor. You heard a little bit of that in our lessons earlier. He does tell us to reach out in love to those who are not blessed in the same ways we are. But to say that the purpose of the church is to help those less fortunate… well, that’s a lie. (more…)

“Why won’t he let me go Home?”

There is nothing like gazing into the face of intense pain to make one feel inadequate. I’m not saying my faith is shaken; God is still God, and Jesus has still forgiven my sins. He still promises that all things work for the best, and these promises are good and true and God keeps them. Truth doesn’t change just because someone you love is in pain — but it can make it so hard to articulate that truth in a way that seems meaningful.

Several of my members were ambulanced to hospitals this past week. This is nothing new; sin means people get hurt and sick. I’ve been to the hospitals here in town many times and know my way around fairly well. I’ve delivered any number of devotions at hospital bedsides and simply held hands as people groaned in pain.

This weekend I faced something new to me (though I know pretty much every pastor faces it sooner or later): A Christian woman who longed, ached to simply go home. Her husband has preceded her to heaven. She knows her children are in good standing through the miracle of faith. She is in pain. Her body is shutting down. She has lived a full, full life and now longs to be with Jesus. Through tears she asked me, “Why won’t he let me go Home?”

I don’t have an answer for her. I don’t know why God has made the decision for her to remain here longer. I know that it brings glory to God. I know that his choice is best for this woman, her family, the doctors, and her congregation. I know that God in his mercy has prepared a place for her in heaven and it awaits her arrival. I know all these things… but no human can say why God has elected to allow her to remain in pain on this earth this much longer.

I left the hospital in tears. That’s not normal for me. I know the goodness of my God. I deliver that love whenever and wherever I can. That’s not to say that I leave people in pain smiling and laughing for joy, but usually I’m pretty even-keel.

Not that day.

Our prayer that day was simple: “Father, we commit her soul to you. Do with it what is best and give peace to her in your decision.”

God knows what he’s doing. My bumbling doesn’t change that. I really wish I was better at communicating his love at such a time, though.