trust

But when ends the week…

The week began in court. The judge talked about a previous case similar to this one that ended in a suicide. “I don’t want a repeat here. You’re not getting out until you’re in someone else’s custody.”

The week ends with a prospect telling me, “I used to go to that church. And then I stopped. For reasons. But you… God used you. I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for you.” She’s halfway through membership classes.

The week began in despair. He was supposed to get out. But now, because of some other case, he had to wait two additional days before he got out. He panicked. His mom wept.

The week ends in a bed. He’s out now, yes, but he still has no home. Every night since he got out on Wednesday he’s been in a homeless shelter. I’ve dropped him off there almost every night. He’s spent days with me. The church has put him to work to get some money to him until he gets a job – and already he’s applied in many places while also attending his necessary classes. It’s not where he wants to be… its’ not where I’d like him, but he’s safe and warm. (more…)

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To me, yes. But to another?!

Long ago God beat into my head the important lesson: “I will take care of you and yours.” I was unemployed, my Bride was eight months pregnant with our first, and we had just moved and so were ineligible for any state aid for a while yet. Despite my pain and fears… God pulled us through. We never starved. We never lived on the street. I learned the lesson well and still treasure it: God will take care of my family.

Some people want me to worry. During dark days in the past, a member of my congregation has attempted to scare me by saying, “Pastor, if the church closes, what’ll happen to your family?”

I shrugged and answered, “We’ll be ok. God’ll take care of us.”

And it wasn’t a flip answer. It’s still not. This is where I stand: I trust that God will keep his promise not only to me, but also to my Bride and children. I’ve seen it before. I know he can do it again.

What I have learned for me, though, I have not learned for others. (more…)

I am just as broken.

We sinful, stubborn, silly humans are a weird lot. We will know something and not really know it. For instance, I know I am broken. I confess it regularly. Every morning, I confess to Jesus. And it’s not a mechanical “yup I’m sinful.” I consider and think, and then rejoice as I read about his forgiveness. This is a real thing that I know.

And I know that as a sinful human being, I have this part of me, this sinful human nature, that says, “at least I’m not as bad as that person,” because you know what? As much as we like lying and thinking we’re not that way – well, we are.

I know these things.

But sometimes… sometimes we get clobbered with a brick.

This week, one woman in my congregation, through what appears to be callous disregard, hurt another woman in my congregation and caused her some pain and distress. For the sake of clarity, I shall give them fake names: Bertha hurt Hilda. When I encountered the problem, Hilda was in church taking care of something. She was mad at herself for being mad at Bertha for hurting her. “I should be a Christian. I should just let it go.”

I reminded Hilda that anger is not a bad thing necessarily. She had been sinned against. The proper thing was not to grin and bear it, nor to strike out. Rather, she should deal with it directly. Pull the woman aside and talk to her, one-on-one. Show the sin, and hope to announce forgiveness. Hilda and I prayed together for wisdom and strength, and forgiveness for Hilda’s anger as well.

And when I walked away… I chewed on it for a long time. Bertha had caused problems before. She is such a broken person, and this is just the latest instance. And I kept chewing. I didn’t pay attention to my children; I was busy thinking about how to deal with Bertha. My Bride tried talking to me. I didn’t hear her; I was busy constructing a rebuke for Bertha. Why is Bertha so broken? (more…)

It’s not my church.

I have an imagination. Sometimes that’s a blessing. I love making up stories. God has given me the ability to tell his stories in a way that people hear “story” and not “boring Sunday school,” and so they learn more about the Bible. Imagination is a good thing.

…and then it’s not.

This past week, I had two related meetings. Both of them were high stressors for me — to the point that I wasted two days this past week, not able to do any office work, not able to visit anyone, because my head was in those meetings and mentally preparing and bracing myself. I do not exaggerate when I say: If these meetings went badly, this congregation might not make it to the end of 2013. And my brain decided the best thing to do was to make that worst case scenario the most likely scenario.

And that’s when imagination is a bad thing.  (more…)

“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…)

Inconceivable!

Matthew 1:18-25

 

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

Inconceivable!

 

The pirates have kidnapped Buttercup, who’s supposed to marry the prince! As they race along in their fast boat, they see someone has given chase. And he’s catching up! And the Vizzini, the one in charge of the pirates, shouts, “Inconceivable!” Yet, it was happening. When he saw that what he thought was inconceivable was true, Vizzini had to act. (more…)

Role Reversal

So I had to recall back just a few months ago when I was ordained and installed as a pastor.  What a wonderful day that was for me!  God had graciously given me this call here.  I heard words from my fellow brothers in the ministry as they shared words of encouragement to me in the laying on of hands.  Now still green behind the ears, the role was reversed. 

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to go to the installation of one of my brothers in the ministry at an area church.  I was excited because I could proclaim some words of encouragement to him.  The words I heard helped me.  So now the question dawned on me all last week.  What passage should I use?  Who am I to give him encouragement?  I wanted it to be memorable.  I had about ten passages flowing through my mind.  Finally it dawned on me.  I should speaks words of encouragement based on a passage that I found especially encouraging.  So I decided to use Isaiah 41:10.  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Those words are particularly comforting to me.  Whenever the stresses of the ministry start to catch up to me, God’s words here give me the strength to keep going not afraid.  God upholds us. 

As I look back on Sunday afternoon, what a privilege that was.  The whole service reminded me of why I am here.  It strengthened me.  What’s more, I got to encourage a brother who has been at a church for less time than I have.  God willing I hope to have this opportunity again.  A few months ago I was the one kneeling and hearing encouragement.  Last weekend, the role was reversed.  What a joy and privilege that was.

Lord Grant Me Wisdom

 

King Solomon had some big shoes to fill when he took the throne as the king over all Israel.  His father was the great and legendary king David.  For 40 years, David ruled Israel.  Now the throne was his son’s.  Imagine the pressure and the thoughts that must have been going through his mind realizing all of the duties he would have as the leader of God’s chosen people.  So when God came to him offering to give him whatever he wanted, Solomon took a look at how God had already blessed him.  Solomon knew God’s love for him and his father David, but in his zeal to serve as the king, he thought he needed the knowledge and the wisdom to rule.  He knew that he needed God’s help to fulfill the task that God had placed before him. 

(more…)

The Power of the Pastor

I’m used to asking permission. When I was training to become a pastor, I’d never assume anything when I practice-preached at various congregations. “May I preach out of the pulpit?” “Is it OK if I preach on this text?” “I’m sorry, I don’t have black robes, only white. Is that OK?” And of course it went outside of practice preaching. I’d be asking permission from professors and my bosses at work, as well as various landlords.

So, it comes as a shock that when I carry that into my call, I get strange looks.

“Pastor, you can preach on whatever you want.”

“Pastor, if you preach for more than twenty minutes, we figure you think it’s important enough, so we’ll listen.”

“Pastor, if you tell us you think this translation of the Bible is good enough, we’ll follow what you say.”

It’s… weird. I have a power simply because I have an office. If I was a member of the congregation, and everything else was the same about me, they probably (rightly) wouldn’t listen to much I’d say. I mean, I’m young, and I’ve been here less than a month! Why should they trust what I have to say? (more…)