Thursday, December 30, 2010

Somewhere Between Jesus & Superman

I often field the question, “What do you do all day?” because of my occupation as a pastor.  There is also a lot of differing opinions as to what the responsibility of a pastor truly is.  Many place the pastor as a person that must be somewhere below Jesus but right above Superman, and many a pastor under those regulations has burned out or worse, lost their passion.  Some do not have as high of an expectation; however, there are some random traditional thoughts on what the responsibility of a pastor should be.   Really, the role of a pastor is rather broad because much of it depends on the environment in which you work, the people in which you minister to, and the resources with which you work.  To be completely honest, those who are believers…you are pastors as well.
You may not think so, but we are all called and empowered to bring forth the news of Christ.  You may not bring forth a sermon (which isn’t much about pasturing but a lot about preaching) by the traditional means, but we have all heard the adage that your life is a sermon and how you live it shows what you believe.  Another crippling matter in the church is to believe that the pastor is superman (or slightly above) and that he alone can do the ministering in the church.  I can see the point that he may be the central or primary minister, but he certainly shouldn’t be the only and also if it happens that God raises someone else up that is truly doing the work of Christ and is doing so in pure truth, it would be in the best interest of the pastor to continue to empower that person for the glory of God. 
I have seen many pastors become threatened when someone else begins a successful ministry in the church.  They feel that it threatens them because they (the pastor) are the main “God” person in the church and all God does should come through them. 
The pastor should be a shepherd, but continually teaching and instructing others to shepherd as well.  We should be training others to take leadership, and I am not just talking about elders either.  Many pastors hold so tight to the reigns of “their” leadership that those very reigns they cling to end up being a noose around their neck because they don’t actually control anything. 
It is His church.
A pastor’s role is one of humility, servanthood (not forced slavery mind you), love, correction, guidance, and so on.  How much of what I mentioned do you agree with?  Now, how much of that should we see in our lives as well?  The pastor leads the people by example, but is not someone that should be in charge of all things spiritual and “of course we can’t be like him because he is a pastor.”  The role of a pastor is to point others to Christ, fulfill the responsibilities that are asked of him in his role (and I hope they are not unreasonably demanding, many pastors are out more nights than a night time security guard due to all the meetings they are required to go to), and love the people. 
There are a lot of things that happen in the common week for many pastors.  Some of us are full time, some part time and bi-vocational, and some of us do it for nothing or next to it.  Different churches ask us to do different things, some people require a lot of attention, some very little, some people think we know nothing because we live in an ivory tower, but I can assure you that some of us are just as grimy as we sit in the trenches with you fighting the same battles you do. 
I don’t want to say we don’t have spiritual responsibilities, of course we do, but everyone does.  No pastor has gone to a church and turned it around or launched it successfully on their own.  It has always taken the body (Church) to get behind him and have God lead them through His Spirit to the place God is calling them.  The pastor should lead, but he should not carry the church nor should he be expected to.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Connection or Collusion?

Have you ever been told that you have to try this restaurant, or go see a movie, or try some sort of product (shampoo, backscratcher, cell phone, etc)?  Have you ever tried that product?  Have you always enjoyed it as much as the person said you would?  Have you rarely enjoyed it as much?  Have you found out features about the product you are using that the person that suggested it to you didn’t even know about?  It is interesting for you to experience the product yourself. 
When I got my current phone I knew it had some cool features that I liked because I had read up on it, and a friend or two of mine had one as well and highly recommended it.  So I picked the one I have.  I have enjoyed it, but it is funny to me that there are so many features that are on there that I never knew about until I had the phone in my hands.  I also have had other people who have this same phone learn about features and explained them to me and then I learned by experiencing them myself. 
I learn well when I experience something.  I have gone to a play in Spain and explained everything that happened in that play and I don’t speak Spanish.  However, I experienced the play and took it all in.  I don’t learn well when someone explains something to me, but if I experience it I learn exponentially quicker and deeper.  I honestly think this may work to my advantage in spiritual matters.  I have had people explaining how God works to me for years, and those people did a great job and have helped me grow.  I have to say, though, in the past few years I have been on a search to experience God instead of just the information about Him and it has changed me a lot, and in a good way.
I believe this was the problem I faced throughout much of my journey with Christ, I loved God, but I never tried to experience Him.  I went to church, meaning I went to the building on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s never really experiencing the church because by my estimation the church hadn’t experienced God.  I read my Bible, meaning I looked at the words, took in what they meant, but never connected them to my life.  I never looked at what was going on in the Word and wanted or longed to feel the life from it.  I never opened myself up to let the Spirit of God breathe the life into my Spirit through His Word.  I prayed, meaning I had conversations towards God but never silenced myself to listen and be sensitive to His voice when He did speak.  I have been opened up in many other ways and His Spirit has broadened my horizons.
However, I have to wonder, how many others are in the same boat I was?
If there are many, what is the state of the church?
I believe the church has gotten very particular about how we do a lot of things that don’t matter.  I believe we have lost track of who Jesus really is and what he showed us about life while on this earth.  He was fully led by the Spirit, and in that was with the tax collectors (viewed as traitors), prostitutes, called a drunk and a glutton, frowned upon by the religious, hated by those who studied the very Scriptures that foretold of His coming, friend of sinners. 
The church’s relationship with Jesus the Christ should be that of complete connectedness and if we ever feel confused on a matter we should refer back to what He did and use that as our guide, letting His Spirit align us with the Word and the actions of Jesus. 
Having said that, I don’t know how to explain what I see of the American church.  I don’t know how to explain what we have on our hands, but I know that if His people will humble themselves, turn from our ways that we have created, and submit ourselves to Him; He will glorify Himself through us.  He will glorify Himself through His Bride.  He will bring honor, and rest His majesty upon Her and the gates of hell that have inundated her will not prevail but will be expunged from her and she will be beautiful.  “He loves us, oh, how He loves us” we, His church, must focus our eyes upon Christ, setting aside man made rules that are full of ritualism and religiosity. 
He is jealous for us, we are His, He is ours.  Let us experience Him intimately and not settle for a positional, pass along the information, knowledge of but not experiencing relationship I fear many of us have settled for (intentionally or not). 
Church, I believe it is time that we begin to look a lot more like Christ.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Road Crew Christianity

Does it ever bother you when you are driving down the highway and there is construction going on so all the vehicles bottleneck into the one or two lanes that are left open and everyone slows down to a crawl.  As you are driving, possibly wondering if you arrive to your destination on time, you look out and see a lot of the road crew just standing there.  Some may be smoking; some may be leaning on a shovel, others just sitting on a trailer or something.  It doesn’t bother me much now, but there was a time (when I was a bit less temperamental) that is irritated me. 
Now the matter of a road construction worker not doing their job can be a bit irritating, but what if it were a police officer?  A person is getting mugged and beat up and you look across the street and there sits a policeman in his cruiser.  How would that make you feel?  What if it were a fireman?  What  if you pulled onto your street and saw a cloud of dark smoke billowing out of your house and in front of the house there is a fire truck full of fire men and they were just sitting there watching the show and doing nothing at all about it? 
You may be a little bit more enraged than with the fire man because they cost you something.  There is more importance on your house or even a friend’s house than being slowed down in traffic.  In each level there is a bit more at risk, road crew and traffic, policeman and harm to another person, fireman and harm to family and home.  So what let us think, is there a job where there is more at risk?  A profession, so to speak, that had more on the line?  I am sure we could think of a few, maybe a doctor, or something of that nature.  The point is that you would be enraged if someone had the responsibility to take care of a situation that had profound impact on an important matter and they turned up their nose at that responsibility and didn’t see it as important, vital, or at all worth their time.
Are you a Christian?
I am not here to slam anyone, that isn’t my intention, but I have recently been drawn to the importance of what it means to be a Christian.  I see statistics all around the world of the billions of people that are living without water and through that we, as believers, have an open door to minister to them by building them wells and talking about the Living Water.  I see statistics of millions of children being caught in sex trafficking in this world and the potential to rescue these children from this life of atrocity and bring them the healing that Christ provides.   I see statistics of those who are forced to live and survive by living in landfills, and we have the possibility of going there and giving them hope by doing very little but through that showing them that they are worth so much that God sent His Son for them…they aren’t trash.
We are called to bind up the broken hearted, provide for the poor, set the prisoner free, give sight to those who cannot see (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), and to give hope to those that are oppressed and without hope.  That is our calling as believers and a family of believers called a church, and as a church world-wide.  If that is our calling, why does the world look like this?  I have a longing to see these evils be fought against, I want to see the broken hearted healed and mended and reaching out to others.   I want to see the poor have the necessities that they need physically and spiritually.  I want to see those who are slaves be set free from the things that bind them.  I want to see those who cannot see jump for joy at the vision God has given them.  I want to see those who have been oppressed spring to life, a new life, which is full of hope because they have met the God of mercy, grace, and love.
I don’t want a road crew Christianity.
I want to see the church.
I want us to stop fighting about the stupid things that have become distractions because we have allowed the enemy to have a foothold.
I want to see the church.
I want to not be bogged down with issues that do not need my attention, nor should have anyone’s attention.
I want to see the church.
I don’t want to try to figure out bigger and better programs.
I want to see the church…
…because I believe if the world sees the church, the true church, it will reveal the glory of God to this broken world, and that is the hope that I have as a part of His church!
"All glory, honor, and power be unto You my King."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Busted Knuckles and Bruised Ego's

I would never be accused of being a handyman, but when I do work on something around the house it is amazing to me how often I can walk away to get another tool or something of that nature and then notice that I have somehow banged up my hand or scuffed my leg on something.  I was even carrying some chairs the other day and I was walking back down the hallway and I felt something wet on my hand and looked down and I have blood running down my hand and about to drip on the floor. I had busted my knuckle on something and left a nice gash.  I have no idea how the injury happened, but it was definitely there.  I didn’t even recognize when it happened, but once again, it was there.
Recently, it has been revealed to me that I have quite a bit of that going on inside of me.  I thought that I was moving along at a pretty nice clip, growing spiritually (and I was and am), learning, opening myself up to what God’s Spirit wanted to do in broadening my horizons.  However, in the midst of that I am finding out also, that I have a lot of nicks, scrapes, and other matters that I thought I had no bearing on me.  I would love to just sit and mope and say, “God is really putting me through the wringer.”  However, I know that for God to do the things in me that I want Him to do (and they are the things He wants to do through me as well) I have to deal with some of these things.
I don’t respond well if I am frustrated, I don’t like being tested or challenged, I have awkwardness socially (you may not notice, but it wipes me out sometimes after a social event), I don’t like feeling as though I am not being approved of, if I don’t like a situation I would rather distance myself from it as opposed to hitting it head on, I could go on and on.  It isn’t the thought that I am the only one who struggles with these things; it is the thought of whether or not I want to let these things have a hold on me.  Am I willing to let these things or other struggles limit what God wants to do? 
Gideon was afraid, but God comforted him.  Moses was afraid, but God directed Him and made a path that Moses could handle.  Many were afraid or faced large challenges throughout the Bible, but even if they were willing to use those flaws as excuses God had a plan and they complied.  That is what I want to do.  I don’t know how some of this mess has gotten here, and I do know where some of it has come from, the point is, I want to be healed. 
Healing isn’t always pleasant, but it is what is best for us.  Healing hurts like hell, but that is often times because the wounds we carry have been inflicted by hell.  I want my life to look a lot more like Him, I want my hopes and dreams to line up with His, but to do that, I can’t let these injuries and flaws be an excuse.  I don’t want to just stand in the hallway of my life and let my wounds drip on the floor, I want to go and get cleaned, and bandaged up so I can move forward and do the work He has called to and do it with more clarity and direction from Him. 
What has been inflicted upon you?  Maybe you have done it to yourself even.  Is it holding you back?  Is it distracting you from what God may be calling you to?  Have you sought Him out for healing?  Are you in a desperate place, a place where you stop fighting and are willing to hand over every hurt to Him?  I hope whatever it is for you, that His Spirit would reveal it to you and show you that He is waiting with open arms to take that hurt away, help you grow from it, and use you in a greater way to glorify Himself.
Our ego is no excuse to allow ourselves to be hindered from God’s best.  Our pride is no place for this process of reconciliation.  Let Him heal you, let Him restore you to the person He wants you to be.  That is what is best for you and for all of us.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Contending With Contentment

Last night as I stood out in my front yard, in my slippers, in the snow, spray painting a gift I was preparing for a gift exchange I am a part of for tonight, guided only by the light of my front porch, I began to wonder about my sanity. I was painting the gift (I can’t tell you what I made because it is a gift and some of those reading may receive the gift, I will update you as to what I made tomorrow) and a few things fell off, so I had to wait for the paint to dry and fix the issue. This morning I woke up, fixed the issue, and then another coat of paint. Did I mention, this gift had to be made of plastic? Two years ago it was pipe cleaners, last year paper mache (however you type that?). This year, plastic…and I am in my front yard, spray painting…in the snow.

I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to these matters. I want it to look good, even though it may very well end up in the trash within a week. I have to talk myself into the gift being fine, my friends will love it, and it is all going to be ok. I have to talk myself into being content.

This is a personality flaw of mine. It isn’t about everything, but if I take ownership of something I want it to be done correctly. If I do not take ownership, it is much easier for me to sign off and not worry about perfection. I don’t expect perfection from others, and really just hope that they did their best, but for me I have to do it right. When will I be content?

I used to, and at times still struggle with being content. I always want to advance, take the next step, keep the pressure on, and I usually have the energy to do so. I used to see contentment as an excuse not to move forward, and at times, I have seen contentment being used as an excuse for laziness, but that is not contentment. So what is contentment? Am I wrong for always wanting to advance? Am I wrong for often wanting more (not material things, but hungry?) Is there a balance?

There are a couple of instances in the Scripture that talk about contentment, the first I looked up speaks of contentment as sufficiency and independence. Meaning you have enough to take care of what you have in such a way that you don’t need outside resources to compensate. You have enough, and you can operate and be happy with that. Well, I think I fit that. I can take care of myself, and even help others, and I am happy that God has given me the capabilities to do that. Check that one off the list.

However, that is not the most used version of contentment in the in the Scriptures has to do with, get this, being possessed with unfailing strength (NT) and undertaking a situation with determination (OT). I didn’t see that coming. Strength and contentment have always seemed at odds in my mind. Determination and contentment have always seemed foreign to each other as well. A content determination, being satisfied in a focused movement, I like that…I like it a lot.

This makes me feel free; this makes me feel like I have unwittingly been walking in contentment for some time. Where I believed I was wrong, When I used to chastise myself for not being content…it was something that I had placed a burden upon myself unnecessarily. When King David talked about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, he was showing he was content with wherever God took Him. He would advance forward, even unto death, but God’s hand being with him brought him peace.

Contentment is not satisfaction alone, it is the absolute trust and peace of knowing as you advance into various situations that God is with you.

While I don’t need to be so picky about gift exchange presents, I do need to make sure that I don’t equate contentment with merely satisfaction because it is more than just that. It isn’t laziness, or even tranquility (although there is a time for than), it is a peaceful trust in God as you move along the journey of the path that He has laid in front of you. It is the joy and calmness that fills our soul as we walk through the trials of life. It is the knowledge that He is greater than all our enemies and if He is for us, who could be against us? Walking in that confidence, letting our heart rest in that, as we move forward, advancing. Living that life sounds rich and beautiful. That is a life that will bring Him honor and glory, that is a life that is worth living, that is a life that is contrary to the world, that is the life of those people we see in the Bible with great courage, that is the life that shines peace in the face of martyrdom, that is a contentment…I can be content with.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I am not really sure if this will have a definitive point, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts on paper about a matter. I was reading a book this morning for part of my time that I force myself to slow down and focus in on God. In the book the author goes after the American theology, which I can agree has some obvious issues. The one I really seem to continually struggle with is the thought that either, “God is loving and has a plan for your life, and has your best interest at heart” verses, “You are an adversary of God, dead because of sin, and in your current rebellion, you aren’t capable of seeing that you need life, much less conjure up life for yourself. Because of this, you are thoroughly dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.”

I read this over and over, I hear that we need more of one or the other from the teachings; I hear that two sides bicker at meetings, and I have to ask …from my perspective…

…aren’t both a part of the whole?

The response I usually get is, “Yes, but we focus too much on one or the other.” When I hear this, and I probe a little further, I usually find that it isn’t the case of there being imbalance, but a matter of preference. Some people love to be slapped across the face with the truth, some need to have a bit more gracious approach.

A little rant here, but I love it when someone tells me that we need more hellfire and brimstone preaching. If I ask why, the answer is usually because “sinner’s need to hear the truth!” After I listen to them, if I ask them how many of these “sinner’s” they invite to church, it amazes me how quickly the topic changes.

I am all about the balance of the truth; we cannot say God is love without also covering the topic that He is just. I talked about that in the past (here). The responsibility, those of us who are teachers (by the way that is all of us who believe to some degree) is to bring forth the fullness of the gospel. Now, having said that, the fullness of God’s Word may not be what you grew up on. You may feel more comfortable on one side of the fence (love or brimstone), so when a teacher speaks on a matter that may not be at your personal view of balance maybe instead of criticizing, we should listen.

It isn’t a matter of incorrect doctrine, rather a matter of incomplete doctrine. Do we focus on one more than the other in America? In my opinion, it depends what church you are in. In many churches the pendulum swings more one way that the other. The completeness of God’s Word is that it is about love, it is also about judgment, and mercy, grace, justice, hope, healing, our rebellion, reconciliation, our adversity and war between the flesh and the Spirit, dependency on God, and so much more. The beauty in that is when we see that the vastness of our God is great enough to encompass all of this, and yet He is able to bring it to a simplicity we can grasp in some capacity.

If we say He is one or the other, we once again limit God to a human revelation. He is so much greater than that. Teach the completeness of His Word; learn the vastness of who He is through His revealing it to you by His Spirit.