Month: August 2019

NO MOAR VISITING

man old depressed headache

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I didn’t visit the woman who wanted me to pray with her before her surgery.

She’s a dear woman, loved by the congregation, deeply valued by many others. She went in for a very painful surgery last week.

I didn’t go visit her.

She’s home now. In pain. Her family is taking care of her. The congregation has set up a rotation to bring her meals.

I still haven’t visited her.

And it’s not that I’m too busy. Honestly, the last couple weeks have been relatively laid-back. Yeah, I’m still putting plenty of hours into ministry, but I have the time to go see a woman in the hospital.

It’s not that I don’t love her.

I love her, so I’m not going to go see her. And it’s driving me nuts. (more…)

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Well, it was a good run.

book shelves book stack bookcase books

Nearly two and a half years, and now… it’s done.

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you might have noticed something missing this past Tuesday: There was no review.

Since arriving at my new congregation, I’ve been able to read and review a book every single week. And last week, it came to an end. I failed to read a book this last week.

Honestly, it’s been a lot longer than that. I go through spurts of reading; sometimes I’d have reviews lined up three months in advance. Sometimes I’d be reading and posting a review that same day. But now, my lead has ended. (more…)

A Dubious Birthday Gift

lighted happy birthday candles

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Sunday I turned a certain number of years old. My birthday is not a big deal to me; I prefer to use it as an excuse to take a nap, really.

Sunday morning we wrapped up worship. I made the after-service announcements and was ready to exit the sanctuary when a member raised her hand. “Pastor, you forgot an announcement!”

Oh?” I ask. This is not an uncommon thing; the congregation is used to filling in the gaps for me.

It’s your birthday!”

I didn’t forget that,” I deadpan.

And like that, the congregation is singing “Happy Birthday” to me. (more…)

Review: Just Keep Going

Just Keep Going
by Sarah H. Nielsen

For about a decade, Sarah H. Nielsen’s son Ted walked in dangerous ways. Years later, she found out he fell into drugs at the age of twelve and didn’t emerge from that shadow for nine years. Just Keep Going is a series of devotions Nielsen wrote based on her journals written during those dark days, addressed to mothers of troubled teens. Each devotion is two or three pages and concludes with a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer of entreaty. Through the book, Nielsen reminds the reader that it is not her job to save her child; it’s Jesus’s job.

Though much of this book came about because of Nielsen’s struggles with her own child, we get far less biographical information than I would have expected. Nielsen keeps the focus on the reader and their relationships with their children and with Jesus. I came to appreciate that aspect of the book, though I had expected the process to be far more story-based.

Much of what Nielsen writes points to Jesus in beautiful ways. One of the main themes of the book reminds readers that it is not up to them to save their children. Jesus paid for them. It is up to him to soften their hearts. I greatly appreciated that emphasis.

On the other hand, there’s an equal emphasis on the free will of humans to choose God. I’m sure that flows from Nielsen’s background, but so often it means that she tortures herself over trying to get her son to choose Jesus rather than focusing on the means of grace that God uses to create faith.

There’s also a strong current of mysticism, where Nielsen talks about listening for God’s voice. To be sure, she is in the Bible a lot and displays a pretty good knowledge of Scripture, but she also mentions hearing God speak to her. This is a dangerous heresy that can lead a lot of people astray. I’m glad she’s got her Bible knowledge; she needs to depend on that.

Which means that this book has some beautiful gospel moments, but it also has some blatant false theology. I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep the book yet. For those who are struggling, there really could be some fantastic help and encouragement. On the other hand, because the false doctrine is so strong that I would be reticent to actually hand the book over.

Either way, you can make your own decisions here!

The Dangers of Peopling

people sitting in front of wooden table

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So maybe I’m a little isolationist. So maybe I like it if I have a week where all I have to do is work my butt off in the office. So maybe I don’t like answering the phone. So maybe I’d rather bury my head and just have to deal with other people on Sunday morning.

So maybe I’m an introvert.

And maybe I’ve taken advantage of this whole pastor thing for too long.

See, when you’re a pastor in a small congregation,you’re largely in charge of your own schedule. Frankly, as long as Sunday morning goes off without a hitch and you visit people when they’re in the hospital, you could probably get away with doing nothing else.

Now, I’m not lazy. I’ve been working hard.

But… I’ve been spending a lot of time in the office and not nearly enough time out visiting members, making evangelism calls, anything like that. Basically, if it involved peopling, I’ve become really good at avoiding it.

That needs to end. (more…)

Review: Live a Jesus-Centered Life

5 Things You Can Do to Live a Jesus-Centered Life
by H. R. Curtis

You have seen how good Jesus is, that he loves a sinner like you. You rejoice that he died for your sins and has risen from the dead. But now you want to go deeper. How can you live a Jesus-centered life? H. R. Curtis tackles that topic in this excellent, short book. He encourages readers to go to church, go read, go pray, go work, and come home. He offers practical ways to do all the above, shows why they work, and how you can keep going when you fail.

I love that this book opens up with a very solid explanation: This is not how you get to heaven, and you don’t help by doing any of these things. All this is reaction to the fact that “It is finished!” Throughout both Law and Gospel are emphasized, too.

The book is also very practical. For instance, it walks through different ways to read the Bible in the “Go Read” chapter, and talks about how to experiment to find out what works best. The book also recommend a number of resources to go deeper.

In the “go to church” chapter, the book assumes that your congregation uses traditional liturgy. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it may make some difficulties depending the home congregation of those reading the book. That said, it explains why the classical liturgy can be so useful. I’m still not a “high church” type person myself, but this section is still very useful.

The “go read” chapter I found especially helpful. It talks about how to get a grip on the “big ideas” of Scripture, and how that help you understand what you’re reading as you dig into the Bible.

Now, the book has a definite audience: People who already know the basics of the Christian faith but want to go deeper. I would not hand this book to someone who was brand-new to the faith. It makes too many assumptions for knowledge level. That said, if someone does know the basics and wants to go deeper, the book is a home run.

I’m glad to have it on my shelf. Check it out if you want to know how to better live a Jesus-centered life!

Found it!

Sleep

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Aaaaaaah…. there it is.

I’ve found that if I spend too much time with people and not enough time in solitude, it triggers a depressive episode. Last week I spent pretty much every moment of every day with people while I was at camp. I figured a depressive episode was coming.

And then it didn’t.

The day after I got back, I spent a good chunk of time on the phone, an activity that’s not too friendly too me. No problems had, though!

Sunday was a Sunday. I got to see and serve my congregation. All went well. In fact, I even spent more time on the phone.

I was really expecting the depressive episode on Monday. See, my depression usually follows “pastor’s rules for sickness.” I know a lot of pastors that will be sick as dogs on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday they’re fit as can be! And then Monday, the sick strikes again. It’s a combination of mental “I have to do this” and God’s pure grace, keeping his servants able to serve. My depression often follows those “rules.” I can be a wreck on Saturday, fine Sunday, back to a wreck on Monday. (more…)