Month: July 2012

What’s scarier… a demon, or Jesus?

The fire crackles. Smores have been eaten. The teens have gathered. It’s the last night of the teen camp-out for our church. The adults have done a good job keeping everything together.

I’ve come out to join them today. We went swimming. Had a Pac-Man tournament. The guys have been flirting with every girl in the campsite. And now the sun has descended. The darkness has come. We’ve gathered together. They’re all looking at me.

“So… what’s scarier… a vampire or a werewolf?”

The young men break out into a spirited discussion of the comparative terror-inducing qualities of each brand of supernatural creature. They debate different kinds of vampires.

“What’s scarier… the mummy or Frankenstein’s monster?”

One young woman disappoints me a little by having no clue what the mummy is. The guys argue, but it’s not nearly as intense as before.

“What’s scarier… a demon or Jesus?”  (more…)

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Which would you rather have?

Would you like scumbag pastor for your pastor?

I Timothy 3:1-7 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

 

Which would you rather have?

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“Remember who you are…”

 

No, this isn’t a post about the Lion King. Sorry, we’re not going to talk about Simba. (Though the movie is epic in scope and just a lot of fun, for the most part.)

This is about reminding a pastor who he is… and being reminded myself.

Yesterday I got to take part in the installation of a brother in the ministry into his new congregation. It is traditional in our circles that any pastor who is there may lay hand on the pastor and speak a word of encouragement or advice, ending with a proper Bible verse. I got to do it, too!

This was a first for me. Frankly, as I stood in a lineup of… nine? Ten? pastors, I was very nervous. I wasn’t the youngest one there — two other pastors involved in the ceremony were in my graduating seminary class, in fact. Yet, I was being entrusted to speak a word of blessing on a brother in the ministry. I was entrusted to speak God’s Word to one of his representatives.

Wow.

I put my hand on his head and told him, “Newlin, there’s a lot of new things in your life. It’s a new city. It’s a new church. It’s a new home. But don’t forget who you are. Don’t forget who it is that you serve in this congregation. They are New. And you are New. From 2 Corinthians: ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come!”

I was not the most eloquent. I wasn’t even the briefest! I was not the only one to really concentrate on Gospel. Yet… I think God spoke. No, scratch that. His Word was applied directly and well. I know God spoke.

And that’s… that’s a wow. That God would use me, not only to speak to my congregation, but also a brother in the ministry?

Yeah. Our God’s pretty nifty.

Man Alive

Man Alive
by Patrick Morley

Most men lead hollow lives. And they hate it. They work in jobs that offer them no long-lasting fulfillment. Their relationships are surface. They don’t have any deep friendships like they see celebrated in the movies. No, men are dying inside.

Man Alive proposes to transform “your 7 primal needs into a powerful spiritual life.” The book offers a chapter for each need (along with an introductory and concluding chapter). Does it succeed?

Well, yes and no. Dave Ramsey has a quote on the front cover: “You need to hear the truth and brother-to-brother encouragement that Patrick Morley delivers in Man Alive!” Either Ramsey doesn’t read a lot of men’s ministry books or he’s overselling.

The book makes a good survey of a bunch of problems facing men. Morley does a fine job presenting God’s answers, and how churches can help provide answers. There’s honestly a lot of good stuff in here. My struggle as I read it lay in that I’ve been doing a fair amount of work in men’s ministry, and this book is aimed at men who haven’t. I’m not the target audience, and it showed. I wanted each chapter to go far deeper, and this book isn’t aimed to do that.

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“He’ll be there.”

Pastors have been making sick calls for a long time…

One of my congregation members is having surgery today. I knew it was coming and called yesterday to double-check the time so I could be there for a devotion before the surgery. I usually stick around during the operations like this so I can give support and spend time with family. If there’s no family (or they’re distinctly not interested in having me around), I’ll simply bring my laptop and get some work done while I’m waiting.

ANYWAY… I called yesterday to double-check the time of the surgery. Good thing I did! The surgery had been moved to seven this morning, as opposed to late morning/early afternoon.

As I was talking with the member about the operation, she revealed something to me that’s totally unexpected.

Apparently, Sunday she was talking with another congregation member. At that point she already knew about the earlier surgery time. (I was gone on vacation until Monday morning, so I didn’t get the chance to talk at church.) She mentioned that she would be in the operation early, so she didn’t expect me to be there.

“Oh, he’ll be there,” the other congregation member assured.

“But he doesn’t have to be,” she answered.

“He’ll be there. That’s just the type of guy he is.” (more…)

What will shame you at your death?

II Timothy 1:8-14 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

 

On your deathbed, what will shame you? (more…)

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Jesus + Nothing = Everything
by Tullian Tchividjian

Simple three-word review: Read this book.

Longer review!

I was at Northwestern Publishing House, my church’s, well, publishing house, when my wife spotted this book. It’s got a nice glossy black cover and the title just pops. Well, that certainly looks nice, and it trumpets the Gospel pretty darn effectively. I flip through, trying to find out more about the author.

He’s a Presbyterian guy and apparently head pastor at a mega-church. These things do not produce brownie points for me. Ah! He’s Billy Graham’s grandson. Well, that makes me think that I can expect certain things wrong.

In the back, I discover an appendix: Twenty-Six Books on the Gospel. Looking through this little section should tell me a lot about this book. So, I look through. I recognize a few names. Christless Christianity by Michael Horton, for example, sits on my shelf, though I’ve not yet read it. Wait a second – could it be? That’s not possible! He recommends God’s No and God’s Yes: The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel by C. F. W. Walther, a classic in my own little corner of confessional Lutheranism! Did anyone even know such a book existed outside our circles? Apparently! (more…)

Christ’s Love Compels Us!

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

The love of Christ compels us!

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Door closed. Window open.

Tonight was HiStory Matters — which is our new member class. I had so many people agree to come and then… no one. Well, no one who wasn’t already a member. Sigh.

And then tonight… week five of thirteen. And randomly… one person shows up early. Wants to know more. I have the opportunity to share God’s Great Exchange with her! Sweet! She wants to come to the session tonight! Sweet! And as I’m about to usher her into the room where we’ll have our session (along with treats!), there’s a knock on my office door… another person! I’ve met him a few times before, but he wants to talk.

Man! Talk about timing! I want to talk, but I need to teach a Bible study. We can talk after.

“Can I come to the Bible study?”

YES!

Well, I didn’t scream it at him, but I sure was excited! And both stayed… and afterward, I talked with this new gentleman. And I got to share God’s Great Exchange with him!

Those people who didn’t know Jesus or know him well I that I worked so hard for… no one showed. But God just keeps guffawing at me. He handed over two different people I didn’t even know a week ago. So awesome. And then, I got to share Jesus with them. To share that they were forgiven… and both hungered for that. To know that they had been declared not guilty. To share that news! And me? I got to do that? Stupid sinful me?!

Did you know that God was that awesome?

Times of Refreshing

I’ve been here nearly a year. I’ve taken some time off, but it’s been mostly for little things like the birth of my son. I attempt (and usually succeed) in taking a day off a week away from ministry needs. At the same time, I recognize: I need to get away from my congregation for a little bit. I’m not talking burnout and need to resign the ministry; I just need some time away to recharge my batteries. I know it’s not burnout because even as I read some tonight, I got fired up for some things I want to do when I get back. I’m already looking forward for vacation to get done so I can be back!

However, I recognize that I need time away. I’ve been a little less patient than I typically am, and certainly a touch more snippy. Thankfully God has graced me with good snarky people in the congregation that can recognize a joke and hand it right back to me, so I’m not worried about over-snarkiness (at the moment). I’m also just getting tired out sooner in the week than I did before. I’m looking forward to getting away even as I’m looking forward to getting back.

At the same time… yesterday was refreshing. (more…)