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
Jesus is awesome.
The word gets used a lot. It genuinely applies to Jesus. The more we get to know Him the more awe He inspires.
I know it’s not common for many Christians to study the Old Testament. Leviticus may get the least attention. Yet, the books of Moses are extremely helpful in understanding the awe-inspiring nature of Jesus. In fact, Jesus plainly taught that Moses wrote about Him:
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47, bold added)
One thing always stands out as I read Leviticus. Instructions about how to avoid becoming unclean. Unclean is a ceremonial and religious term, not necessarily a sanitary term. It speaks about a condition that separates the unclean, at least temporarily, from fellowship with the community and with the Lord.
Leviticus speaks about unclean or uncleanness 128 times in 90 verses. The book of Leviticus itself is only composed of 859 verses. The words “unclean” or “uncleanness” appear explicitly in more than 10% of the book. The surrounding verses often continue the discussion. So, it is safe to assume that this concept is pretty important to understanding the point of Leviticus.
Many New Testament believers find this subject boring. Irrelevant. A waste of time. For the nation of Israel it was incredibly important to know and understand how to remain ceremonially clean. It was essential for their life and worship. But how is this relevant for believers who are not under the Law?
The concept, when rightly understood, isn’t boring at all. It should increase our awareness of who Jesus is. What He has done for His people. How glorious and awesome He is.
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.
Today is the Christian holiday called “Good Friday.” It’s a celebration of and remembrance of the crucifixion of Christ.
The name of the holiday causes confusion for some. On the surface, it is easy to ask: What’s so good about a crucifixion?
The Jews and Romans certainly didn’t intend for it to be good. Crucifixion was designed by the Romans to be as shameful and painful as possible. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans as an enemy of the state.
Jesus was handed over to be crucified by His own people. They accused Him of being a blasphemer. They wanted Him to die a shameful death under the curse of God.
On the surface, there seems to be nothing worthy of celebration or remembrance. Nothing good. That’s why we need to look beneath the surface.
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.
We live in a crooked and perverse world. The darkness can cause people to lose hope.
The Bible promises that the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It promises that the God of peace will be with you. It promises that God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. It promises all this just in Philippians 4.
But the Bible doesn’t promise this without qualification.
It doesn’t say that these promises are yours if you put them on a bumper sticker. It doesn’t say this will be true if you wear it on a t-shirt or sing it loud enough. These offers aren’t promised if you have them memorized or written on a refrigerator magnet.
We are supposed to take hold of these amazing promises by pressing on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
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.