Growing up, I said the Our Father prayer a lot.
A lot. Multiple times a day.
It was part of my religious tradition. Most of the time, I mumbled it as quickly as I could.
For what it’s worth, my Dad tried to help me understand that mumbling the prayer without understanding what it really meant wasn’t the goal. He wanted me to understand it. He wanted me to mean it.
I remember sitting with him in the car one afternoon while we went through every phrase. He did his best to explain to me what the terms meant. Why we would say these things. Why it mattered.
It didn’t take. Continue reading
Some jobs are more dangerous than others. Certain risks are associated with various professions. By most standards, pastors have a pretty cushy job.
At least we do in the United States.
But even in this modern American context there is a real danger for pastors. For all Christians, really. Few are talking about it. Most don’t even know it’s a danger.
But it’s there. Always lurking. It’s a hazard that many fall into. It seems that many don’t even realize they’ve fallen into the trap.
This occupational hazard is related to pride. It’s a symptom of our modern church systems. It can only be fixed by returning to a robust theology of the church and focusing our attention back where it belongs.
So, what is the danger? Continue reading
The genuine gospel is much bigger than the individual. It is a God-sized gospel.
The God-sized gospel teaches us that God is redeeming a people for Himself. This people is to be reconciled to Himself, through Christ, from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Paul describes his personal ministry from the risen Christ. This is crucial for the church to understand. In order to understand, we have to take off our “ME-centered” glasses and put on “God-centered” ones.
I have a problem. Maybe you do, too. I bet you can at least relate.
I think from my perspective. Sometimes I pursue my agenda. This probably happens more often than I’d like to admit.
I like to do, what I like to do, when I like to do it, where I like to do it, how I like to do it, and with whomever I like to do it. I like to listen to and believe what makes me comfortable.
I think you do, too.
Sometimes we are good at hiding our self-centeredness. I believe it is possible to have moments where we put others above ourselves. Powerful emotions like love, hate, and disgust can cause us to act contrary to our self-centered nature.
The sinful, selfish nature of human beings is evident early. Tantrums and screaming fits naturally flow from young children who do not get their way.
Adults are usually better at hiding their tantrums. Usually. They may be throwing a tantrum in their heart, though.
Christians are given the gift of God’s grace. Grace is even more powerful than selfishness. We receive this gift when we repent of our self-centered ways and trust in Christ alone.
“Spectator” is not a spiritual gift. It isn’t a calling.
Yet, many church models consistently produce passive Christians. Instead of making disciples they are making spectators.
When people think of a scandal they often think of sex, drugs, and money. Maybe some combination of these things. But not every scandal involves these things. Some are less conspicuous.
The human body is fascinating. It is incredibly complex. In all of its complexity it is still unified. The complexity is integrated. The body and its members aren’t independent. They are all dependent upon each other.
The church is called the body of Christ. Christians are all members of one body. We are individually members of the body. We are called to be integrated with one another.
To succeed in our mission God gifts the members of the body. We are supposed to employ our individual gifts through serving one another and the world in love.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesians 4:4-7)
A body is sensitive to changes. It grows, reacts, hurts, and succeeds together. Each member is different, important, and unique. A hand isn’t a foot. Neither is more important. Together they can do more than either could ever do alone. They are bound together whether they like it or not.
I used to be a salesman. I sold a lot of different stuff. I worked retail. I did door-to-door. In all my various jobs my function was essentially the same. I was the link between company and customer.
Successful companies know their customer demographics. Many sales meetings revolve around numbers. Persons are statistics. The customer becomes a set of numbers, preferences, and habits. Really successful companies cater their goods and services to a target demographic.
When I began in pastoral ministry people assured me that my experience as a salesman would be beneficial. They said there was a lot of overlap between pastors and salespeople. But when I open my Bible and read about Christ’s church I see a beautiful design that is so much different from a business.
When Jesus walked the earth He rebuked those who failed to understand the difference.
Every job has certain occupational hazards. One of the hazards of being a preacher is getting funny looks or outbursts from the people you are preaching to.
I’ve been preaching and teaching for about a decade. I’ve seen some interesting things in that time. I know I missed a good amount in the years I preached without my glasses. I couldn’t really see anyone clearly past the third or fourth row. Now, I see it all.
By far the most hostile and aggressive hearers I’ve encountered are those who have heard me preach outside of the church building. When proclaiming God’s Word in the open-air you should expect a little more… colorful responses. Preaching in the safety of your own church building tends to minimize the negativity and hostility.
But not always.
Once when preaching on everybody’s favorite subject – obedience – a young woman emphatically crossed her arms, made eye contact with me, then stuck her tongue out. Her body language perfectly communicated her distaste for the topic at hand. She wanted to make her dissatisfaction with my topic clear to me.
I get it. Teaching obedience isn’t popular. It can be labeled as being legalistic. But it’s part of the Great Commission whether we like it or not.
When I was a bachelor I didn’t cook. Now that I’m married I still don’t. I eat much better though because my wife cooks.
In college I don’t think I even owned a plate. I know I had a plastic cup. I might have had some silverware but it probably belonged to my roommates. It didn’t matter. I didn’t need it.
Left to my own devices I only ate fast food or microwaveable food. No dishes. No prep. No cleanup. No fuss, no muss.
It was easy. Clean. Convenient. Fast.
It was also unhealthy. Very unhealthy.
The appeal for easy, clean, convenient, and fast doesn’t just affect bachelors. The same unhealthy approach is often applied to discipleship.
Daddy, will you push me?
As a father of seven I hear this question about a thousand times a year. Our swing set sits faithfully outside waiting for someone to hop on. Back and forth. Back and forth. Then back to rest while it waits for me to say yes again and give someone another push.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Riding the swing is a great way to spend some time during the summer. But it’s a lousy way to spend our time in the church. Continue reading