ministry

Beyond Redemption

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I should have said something.

I want to share this story with you, because I think it’s as important to share our failures as it is to share our successes. See, I know how important evangelism is. I know how vital it is to share Jesus. It’s something I desire to do so much.

I also just plain suck at it a lot of the time. (more…)

The Broken Heart

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He was so angry, he left when I came to visit.

His life has been a mess for years. Now, sure, he’s brought it on himself through a series of unwise decisions and not a few decisions that were plain sinful. Doesn’t really matter, though. Living in the ruins of your own life can leave you very, very bitter. He was angry at God. And since I am God’s representative, it means he was angry at me.

I’d come to visit him and his wife. His wife was so apologetic for him.

It’s ok,” I told her. “You can’t control him. His actions aren’t your fault, and your actions aren’t his fault.” It’s almost like I’ve said it before to them.

We chatted more. She told me they were doing ok. “We have enough food for tomorrow,” she told me. Only enough for tomorrow. Not enough for Thanksgiving. Not enough for the rest of the week. They truly had daily bread, and that alone. (more…)

In the Assembly of the Saints

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Sunday at church I couldn’t hear myself speak, the congregation was so loud.

And it was glorious.

When we serve Communion, our members are ushered up in groups of about ten to a rail that they can stand at or kneel at, depending their preference and ability. Once everyone is that table is lined up, I say, “You are welcome at the table of the Lord.” I then motion for them to kneel and begin distributing the bread.

Sunday we sang a Communion song that has become a standard in our congregation: “Draw Near” translated by John Neale, using a tune by Steven R. Janco. It has a very simply refrain designed to be able to be memorized and sung even as people are standing at the Communion rail receiving the Sacrament. (more…)

Representation and Ministry

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I went to a comics convention a couple months ago. While there were a lot of people in costumes, there was one family that caught my attention. Dad was a black dude. I don’t know if he was cosplaying someone like Luke Cage or just wearing street clothes, but his partner, a white woman with punk-cut blonde hair, wore a Spider-Gwen costume, and their son wore a Miles Morales costume.

So if you’re not a geek or you’ve avoided the movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, first off, go watch that movie. As of my writing this, it’s on Netflix. Well, well worth your time. And in case you don’t take my advice or are just plain lazy, here’re pictures of what Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen look like:

In other words… this family found themselves in these relatively new characters. Here, at last, was someone they identified with in comics. And as a family, they reveled in it.

(I’m sad now I didn’t ask to take their picture. It was my first con and there was a lot to take in!)

Now, that’s a fair amount of geekery for a ministry blog. What’s the point? (more…)

Worth Nothing

Melting way in a storm

This is what I am now. Broken. And this is what I should be. My name is Gomer. I wasn’t always this filth. Once I was happy.

The day of my wedding. It hurts to remember it now. The rabbi pronounced us married. And I turned to my husband. My new husband. Hosea. You should have seen his smile. He was so in love with me. He had built me a home. Built us a home. He was a man of God. He always treated me so, so well. He loved me just because I was his.

And then I thought I found someone better. I noticed another man who was taller than Hosea. Better looking. And he treated me well, too, when we’d meet in the street. And when Hosea held me, I’d pretend I was in this other man’s arms. It was just my imagination. It didn’t matter. And then I went into the other man’s arms.

I left Hosea. I left the man who had smiled so much on our wedding day. I left him for someone else. And it was good. The other man prized me. For a while. And then he decided he wanted someone else. And I was. I was alone.

It was better with Hosea. But I can’t go back. I can’t dirty him with what I’ve done. So I dwell in the ruins. I’m not good enough for him. I’m not good enough for his love. I’m not good enough for his smile. I am broken. I sell myself, but I know what I’m worth. Nothing. (more…)

A Rest in the Wood Between Worlds

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The grass cradled my crumbled form. Dogs panted nearby, the sun illuminating their golden coats. My seven-year old son played happily, adding his glorious sounds.

I rested.

I do not know how long I slept on that peaceful hillside. The voice woke me. “The woods between worlds has welcomed you, but you must return to face what you left behind.”

I sat up. The dogs reclined on the hillside. My son was sitting, staring off into nothing like he needed a nap.

And the church lay up the hill. Back in reality.

I do not know where the voice came from. I do not know who spoke it, though I suspected Aslan.

I did not want to go back.

Back to disaster. (more…)

Review: Domesticated Jesus

Domesticated Jesus
by Harry L. Kraus Jr.

We’ve domesticated Jesus. We’ve made him a small, tame god that’s not able to protect us. We’ve made ourselves big and him small. But a domesticated Jesus isn’t worth our praise. He’s not worth our time. And here’s the problem: The real Jesus isn’t small. He is a mighty God that does protect us! In Domesticated Jesus, Harry Kraus looks at this abomination we commit ever day of our lives, who Jesus really is, and what we can do about it.

What I thought I was getting: A book that would look at how we domesticate Jesus, show us how Jesus isn’t domesticated, and that the real Jesus is so much better.

What I got: A book that touches on how we domesticate Jesus, and how we can make sure we don’t domesticate him in our lives. (more…)

No Church For You!

Whew. Worship was canceled today. Kind of.

All week I’ve been struggling with dizziness. For the most part it was just an annoyance, but yesterday (Saturday) it was bad enough I canceled all my appointments. I was able to do plenty of office work, so it wasn’t a total loss, but I was frustrated. I don’t like being the one canceling. (Though, as has been noted, I rarely cry if someone cancels on me!)

And then… this morning.

I was hoping that the dizziness would be like most pastors’ illnesses: Maybe bad on Saturday, but fine on Sunday. Whether it’s God working to make sure his people hear his Word, or just adrenaline, I’m usually fine on Sunday mornings. When I got up this morning, that’s what it looked like.

Good. There’s lots to do today. Choir, then worship, then Bible study, and then a new member class. All of it good, but a lot to do and much more difficult if I can’t stand up because the world is spinning. (more…)

Let me just hide in this box for a bit…

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So he canceled on me. Again.

And the prospect I went to visit in the hospital was sleeping, so I didn’t get to see her.

And I’m sitting here, thinking about how I’m not able to visit people, and I’m…

…well, I’m happy, all right? Relieved wouldn’t be inaccurate. I’m content to sit in my office a little longer and do a little more work on the laptop, and now I suddenly have about twenty minutes that I don’t have to be actively involved with something before my next appointment shows up here. (And this person doesn’t appear to be canceling.)

This is me: The pastor that doesn’t want to people. (more…)

Ouch.

One of the reasons my professional reading has slowed down is that I’m purposely taking in more video content. As I grow in my professional life, I want to learn in as many ways as possible. I will often take in videos of others pastors’ sermons. I want to grow in my preaching ability, and this is one way to do it. And this morning, I watched this video:

Ouch.

This one hurt me. A lot.

In case you aren’t able to watch the video, here’s how it begins: The pastor asks, “Have you ever seen Matthew 18 happen? Have you ever belonged to a church where they actually followed this part of the Bible?”

Ouch.

He related a story where a pastor said they would start keeping Matthew 18, and his church asked him to leave. Because it’s scary.

So, what’s Matthew 18?

When your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault. Just between the two of you. Not judging him, but because you love him. Because you don’t want him going to hell, because he has chosen to love his sin and deny what God says about his sin. If he listens… show him Jesus.

And if he still says his sin is more valuable, go with one or two others. Show him that you’re not the weirdo here. Show him that what he’s doing is that serious. And if he listens… show him Jesus.

And if he still says no, I want this sin more than I want forgiveness, I want what I get with this sin more than I want Jesus’s promises of heaven, I value this sin more than I value God himself, then go and tell the church. Mourn over this person. Ask if anyone has more information, or has a connection that they can talk to this person. And if that person listens… show him Jesus.

But if he still doesn’t listen, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. And how did Jesus treat them? He loved them. He spent time with them. But he never, ever let them think that they were good with God when they weren’t. The goal was always, always to put them in touch with forgiveness.

And as this sermon went on, I thought of… this man. That woman. These people.

I have failed. This shepherd has failed over and over again. I have run away from being a good shepherd. I’ve said I was too busy. Or I knew how it would end. I have let people slip away from God’s Word. I have allowed people to think that their sin and their Savior can be held in the same hands and loved in the same heart.

And in this sermon, I was the one called to repentance. I have not loved the people our God has given me to love. I have loved approval and business and praise more than I’ve loved the souls that Jesus died for.

I have sinned.

And as I sit here typing, my first impulse is to say, “And I’m going to do better.”

But… that’s putting the fruit before the vine.

Doing better isn’t wrong. Wanting to serve God well is certainly good. But before I am enabled to do that… I need God’s forgiveness. Confession isn’t just admitting that what I have done is wrong.

It is seeing that Jesus did better for me. He obeyed for me. And he died for me.

I need to go spend some time with my Savior and see this miracle.

And then… then, when I know how loved I am, when I see that I am forgiven that much, when I am empowered to see how loved these others are…

…then, and only then, can fruit come. Only then can I share Jesus.