Month: January 2017

Blessings Beyond what may be Borne

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No one has loved us like you.” She was about to cry, this dear, dear woman. “Don’t leave us, pastor. Don’t leave.”

And how can I? I do love her. God has used me to call her back to his side, to bring her to Jesus’s feet, to lead her to rejoice in forgiveness and raise her face to the light of grace. And now she tells me that I cannot leave. How could I leave her?

Later today, I look over the evening service. I see people God has used me to reach. I see teens and young moms and old men and… and I know that this is a unique ministry that I have here. That not every pastor could handle ministering to this group of people. How could I leave them?

And I hear another call. And they tell me what they’re looking for. And what they’re looking for… it’s me. Or at least someone with the same talent set God has given to me. And I talk to others to make sure that what they say they want is really what they want and need. And the previous pastor tells me yes; what they need matches my gifts. How could I not go?

And I learn more about what life is like at this other call. And it sounds like it doesn’t have the problems I’ve faced here. It is not perfect; I am assured this by all the right people. But the heartaches I have had here would not follow. And I would love to start over. And these people match who I am in ways I have not seen here. And… how could I not go?

I’ve started talking to the members of this other congregation. They sound like people I can serve and serve well. They sound like people I could indeed love. And they call out for a shepherd to shepherd them. How could I tell them no?

And I see the teens I work with here. And they cried out this week when I told them about the call. And these teens need a shepherd to be with them, too. How could I tell them no?

I love this place where I am. I love these people. They have been thorns and hurt me again and again and yet God has allowed me to love them and serve them. How could I leave?

And I have already begun to love this place I have been called to, so far away. How could I stay?

I can’t.

I can’t do this. (more…)

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Goodbye.

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I held his hand and prayed, “Lord, you have bought him with your own blood. Take him home.”

His sister held his other hand and cried.

He breathed his last.

Today has been a long, long day. Today my member rejoices in heaven, finally free of the health problems that plagued him, free of those effects of sin, free of sin itself, free to love and serve the Savior he now sees and basks in the splendor of. Today I held a grieving sister. Today I witnessed to nephews and nieces who have long since left the church and from what I can tell Jesus as well.

And I was there to serve.

I don’t know that I will be much longer.

I’ve received a call to serve another congregation. The way my church body works, is that a pastor will receive a call to serve at a new church, but he still holds a call from his current congregation. So right now, God has called me to serve him here and in another place. I have yet to figure out how to be in two places at once, so I must use what little wisdom I have to figure out where I think the gifts God has given me best fit.

And I realized as I prayed and as I shared the Gospel all throughout today… where I’m at now, we have a number of other pastors in the city. If I wasn’t here, any one of them would have been available to come and comfort this family. I’m not saying they’re not busy – they have their own congregations! – but that there’s someone else nearby.

The new congregation I’ve been called to doesn’t have that luxury. The nearest pastor to that congregation is a good distance away. They don’t have someone to hold the hands of the dying.

This doesn’t mean I’m moving. I don’t know yet. I need to find out a lot more about this new congregation. Will I be able to serve well there? Is my philosophy of ministry close to theirs, or would I end up battling something that doesn’t need to be battled because we just don’t “fit” together? Would my family thrive or wither in this new location? And how does all that compare to where I am now? Is where I am now a better fit, does my philosophy of ministry match this location, am I battling uphill battles that don’t need to be fought?

Yeah. A lot of questions, and this is all so new that I don’t have any answers yet. And that’s ok.

But today I found a notch in the “accept the new call” column. I hear sheep calling for a shepherd.

And then I announced the call to the teen group I help. And their reaction… they don’t want their shepherd to go.

No matter what I choose, sheep will be without a shepherd. No matter what I choose, I will hear the voices crying out.

No matter what I choose, God will receive glory. No matter I choose, a congregation will rejoice that their shepherd has been sent to them by their Savior. No matter what I choose, I will be blessed to hold the hands of the dying and comfort the weeping.

No matter what I choose, my Savior has died for me.

So, should you pray and think of me, say a prayer. I need wisdom. I need a lot of wisdom. I don’t know where I will go.

Father, give me wisdom. Open my heart to love the people you have given me – both those I have loved these past years, and those I have not met in this other congregation. Keep me from any frivolous or biased decision-making, but guide me to see where I can best serve you. I need you, Father. Hold me tight.

Amen.

More Than Their Ability

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Too much. You have given beyond your ability. Too much.

I know this family. I have served them for these years. I love them. Visiting them is a joy. I take out Communion and I ask, “Are you a sinner?”

Yes,” she answers, looking at me like an idiot. Pastor, of course I’m a sinner. What’s wrong with you? You know that as well as I do!

Yes,” he answers, his eyes downcast. His guilt weighs heavy on him. All the time. Every time.

I ask the next question: “Did Jesus die for your sins?”

Yes,” he answers, clinging to that hope. It’s the only way. Please, please, he died for my sins.

Yes,” she answers, confident after years of having being taught otherwise, that indeed, yes! Her Savior lives.

Having heard your confession of sins and your confession of faith, as a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I answer with joy.

She smiles. She loves seeing her pastor give the absolution. He smiles. He loves that lifting of weight, the guilt gone.

But no more.

She died. (more…)