Month: March 2014

My Brokenness

What finally convinced me to go was the day I couldn’t get out of bed. It’s not that I was too tired (I was tired, but not that bad). It’s not that I was just so comfy. It’s not that I didn’t have things I had to do.

No, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t control myself to climb off the bed, go shower, get dressed…

As a pastor, I’ve been trained in some basics of spotting things like depression. And that day was the last straw. It was time to go see a doctor. I needed to find out if there was something unbalanced in me, some way to treat and manage what was quickly becoming not just a personal problem, but a problem that was bleeding out into the ministry.

I used to write devotions based on the sermon for the following week. This week? I couldn’t concentrate. At all. I simply didn’t get it done.

Sure, it’s Lent. Sure, I can make excuses.

But you know what? I totally could have gotten the devotions done… if I had sat down and just did them, instead of wasting time, telling myself I didn’t have time to waste time, and still wasting time. (more…)

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Hijacked

It’s amazing the level of betrayal someone feels when you share God’s Word with them.

No, it’s really not. I understand all that intellectually. After all, the sinful nature is hostile to God, and it’s a clever sunnova. It’ll worm its way into a person’s heart – not difficult, since it lives there – and turn people away from God. And when someone calls back, when someone warns against sin, well, of course the sinful nature will hiss and spit. And it’s your fault, if you’re the one warning. And the other person will blame you for any problems – not their own sin, oh, no, it couldn’t be their own sin, even if they fess up to that sin.

There’s more than one person here in my congregation that has turned me into the enemy. When they see me, they back away, as if I’ve dealt them some sort of mortal blow. Some avoid me altogether. Others have accused me of trying to destroy their families.

And all this, because I shared the Word of God with them. All this, because I love them. Because, honestly, if I didn’t love them, I’d let them go on and damage their faith and reject Jesus and walk straight into hell.

But I do love them. So I warn them. With acid in my stomach at the thought of it, with prayers to God to remind me that yes, I really do love this person, and yes, this is the best thing, I warn them. And they, in turn, believe that I have betrayed them.

It’s been hard lately – stupid hard, and it really shouldn’t be. I know all this intellectually. I braced myself emotionally. But you know what?

I’m tired of it. You want to make me the enemy? Fine. I’m the bad guy. You want to walk into hell, despite my warnings? Fine. Go.

Which brings me to the Hunger Games.

Spoilers ahead for Mockingjay, the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy, if such things matter to you. (more…)

“Maybe I need to rethink belonging to this church.”

“One of my old pastors told me a church isn’t a building. It’s a group of people. And I have my group of people at work. We watch a pastor on tv together. That’s good enough!”

That’s what she told me. Never mind that what she said meant she didn’t belong to the same congregation as her family. Never mind Jesus invited her to the feast of Communion only in a local congregation, not through television. Never mind that her tv preacher was a false teacher. Never mind that I was her shepherd calling her back.

It didn’t matter what Scripture I proclaimed. It didn’t matter at all – she didn’t need church.

Never mind that she constantly complained that her son didn’t come to church. (I wonder where he learned that?) Never mind that she was constantly so overstressed that she needed Jesus to calm her down and make her let go of her stress. Never mind that Jesus commands us to gather together.

Sigh.

Well, as might guess, it wasn’t a fun conversation for either of us. She left, telling me, “Maybe I need to think about whether or not this is the right church for me.”

Oh, the next day?

Her brother (also a member) was in the hospital and about to undergo emergency surgery. “He’s about to go into pre-op, so you probably can’t get here in time. Just say a prayer, ok?”

I grabbed my coat and drove to the hospital. I’m known in this particular hospital, and if the patient allows it, I’m allowed to go all the way in until the actual operating theater. When I arrive, he’s still in his room, surrounded by family.

Including that woman.

“Pastor! You got here fast!” she says.

I look at her. “A tv pastor will never visit you in the hospital.”

“You’re going to be mean about this, aren’t you?”

“Yep.”

And I turned to the man in pain and shared the Gospel with him. I visited him every day until he went home – and I’ll do a follow-up this week at his home. (I make it my policy, whenever possible, to visit a member every day they’re in the hospital. It might be only a five-minute visit, but I’m there with them! There are definite positives to pastoring a smaller congregation!) I shared Jesus and comfort from him at every visit.

See, God has given us a great blessing through television and the internet to share the Gospel with others. But there are things that cannot come through a screen. A personal visit when you’re in pain? No matter how close you might be to that person on the other side of the screen, they can’t hold your hand as you pray together, and they can’t sit with you in your pain and simply be there.

But I can’t help but feel God timed this all to happen just right to show that woman… yeah, you do need a local congregation.

I just hope he gets through to her. Personally, I’m not confident – she’s a stubborn woman, she is! – but if anyone can get through, it’s God!

Christless Christianity

Christless Christianity
by Michael Horton

Sometimes a book preaches the Gospel so well it smacks you upside the head and reminds you what the center of the church really is meant to be. Michael Horton’s book points to Jesus as the sole source of anything the church is meant to do, and warns against the many things that have replaced Jesus in American churches. It’s not a masterpiece such as Jesus + Nothing = Everything, nor does it get into the nitty-gritty near as much as, say, Walther’s Law and Gospel, but it still kept my attention and has refocused me to preach Jesus.

Horton attempts to show that in many modern American churches, Jesus is at best someone to be name-checked. He shows how the Gospel has been mangled, how the Law no longer cuts, and that our American churches have descended into Pelagianism and Gnosticism. (more…)

I am the enemy.

She has turned me into the enemy.

I am the bad guy now. I am the one threatening her family. I am the one striking out at her, accusing her of terrible things. I am the one who has ruined her life, driven her children to want to hurt themselves, and am holding a sword over her head if she fights back.

At least, this is what I’m told.

I can’t go into specifics – honestly, one of the reasons I dwell on my reactions on this blog is to preserve anonymity of others. But, basically, I tried to help, it blew up in my face, and now I’m the bad guy.

I have been the bad guy before. I do not mind standing up for the Gospel. I do not mind being blasted for holding to God’s Word.

OK, that’s a lie. But at least then I know it’s a battle worth having. I wish I didn’t have to be the bad guy there (and I’m bracing myself for another skirmish this week), but at least I know what side is right. Siding with God is a no-brainer, right?

Right? (more…)