A Chuckle Then A Conviction

This morning I came across a scripture that my made chuckle a little. Every so often, God’s word makes you laugh.

The scripture is Hebrews 5:2 and it say’s

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of people in the things relating to God, in order that he can offer both gifts and sacrifices on behalf of sins, 2 being able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and led astray, since he himself also is surrounded by weakness (LEB)

Even though we don’t have high priests anymore in the Christian Church, we do have pastors that serve the body similar to a high priest.

A pastor isn’t a job you just do. What does that mean? Anyone can fill a job role as a pastor. I know many people who are in pastor positions that are merely working because they were volunteers and they just filled a role that was vacant because the church didn’t want to search for a new candidate. But a pastor isn’t a filling position; a pastor is someone that has a calling from God to serve in the universal church.

As a pastor, I serve the church, whether it be the local church or the universal church. Though I am employed and paid by a church, they are not my employer because my employer is God and God alone.

God is my boss and leads my life. There were times when I thought I was in control, but God has proven time and time again that He orders my day. I must be obedient to that calling and respond accordingly.

What makes me laugh about this passage is that a pastor is called to handle with gentleness the ignorant and the weak. Oh man, I had probably a list of people that came to my mind when I read that passage, and I image the author writing these words with a list of people as well. And it just made me chuckle.

Then it hit me, how well do I handle the ignorant and the weak? I joke with people when they ask me if I would have been a lead pastor and I always respond with, “As a children’s pastor I get the blessing of when the immature show signs of maturity, as if I was a lead pastor, I get the curse of the mature acting with immaturity.”

That response always gets a chuckle and an “I know what you mean”reaction because the church is designed to a place for the weak to come and find rest. We deal with the ignorant the weak every day, and as a called pastor I need to better at showing gentleness to the people that serve. I can be bothered by their attitude, but I need to be gentle and continue to love on them so that they do not walk away from the faith that is already so fragile.

I need to continue to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

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Reflections Of Being A Pastor

This November, I am coming up on nineteen years since I first accepted a ministry position in a church. Sure it was a part-time ministry in a small city in a church that struggled to get fifty people in its doors on a weekly basis, but it was a start.

I remember accepting the job and trying to figure out what it means to be a pastor. I figured out quickly that PG-13 movies were not all created the same as the first two movies that I played was Austin Powers and Mickey Blue Eyes. I learned that my college student eyes are entirely different than a parent’s eyes.

I am surprised I even lasted the whole year, but it was a good paycheck, and I was very honored to have the chance of pastoring.

Since that time, I got a Bachelors, and Masters degree in ministry had a few kids and served for sixteen years in full-time ministry. I had many years of struggling trying to know what it means to a pastor. I am pretty good at theology, I am no theologian, but I can sniff out a theology that isn’t biblical. I can hold my own on debates with Mormons and JW’s. I still chew on tough scriptures especially ones in the Old Testament, but my hope and faith are still rooted in Christ.

But pastoring is still tough because pastoring goes beyond theological debates on original sin, predestination or theories on revelation. I have sat at bedsides of elderly faith men struggling in death and a young kid on life support where parents are holding on a hope of a miracle before they say their last goodbyes to their children. I have been in homes of people angry over the church’s decision on a non-essential issue but at the same struggle with a teenager who is confused about their sexuality and doesn’t know how others will treat them.

It’s easy to open the gospels and see Jesus pastoring the people around him. He was blunt with some and thoughtful with others. He was angry enough to make a whip and turning tables but also quiet enough to change a crowd by drawing in the dirt. But to practice Jesus pastoring is more difficult than it appears. Because I know for me, I’ve been blunt when I should have been more thoughtful. I have been quiet when I should have turned some tables over.

Pastoring is more than theology, it’s living and loving with the people God has called you to be with every Sunday. It is a calling that isn’t about tasks and chores to be done by Sunday Morning, but a calling that involves your whole life.

I am not perfect, I have made mistakes. Thankfully there is forgiveness and grace from God.

To be an effective pastor, I need to know the hope that I have, and I need to follow Jesus in my everyday life so that people, whether they attend my church don’t, can meet Jesus through my life.

Hopefully the next nineteen plus years I continue to grow as a learner of faith but also more as a pastor that is closer to Christ.

My Favorite Cringe Bible Story

I love watching cringe videos. I don’t know if I am a terrible person, but to me, there is nothing funnier than awkward moments happening to innocent people.

One recent video that I saw that made me laugh, a flat-earther started yelling at a NASA employee in a coffee shop. It was amazing watching this crazy guy accusing the person from lying to the public.

Oh man, it was hilarious.

Because I am the type of person, one of my favorite stories in the Bible is in the book of Matthew.

When Jesus is facing death and Pilate decides to allow the crowd to pardon Jesus. So Pilate brings a known criminal to the crowd with Jesus. Naturally, they will come to their senses and request Jesus to be released.

Pilate asks, “Who should I release?”

Crowd: “Barabas!!”

Pilate retorts, “Okay are you sure?”

Crowd: “Yes we want the criminal.”

Pilate: “Fine, but I am not responsible for this man’s death.”

And this is my favorite part; the crowd say’s “His blood is on all our children and us” (Matthew 27:26)

When they yell this at Pilate, I can imagine people going, “Really?! You want this nasty man back on the streets.” I can sense their stomach being a little knotted, and teeth a little clinched.

And the amusing thing is that I can image God the Father sitting in heaven, with his palm on his forehead saying “Really?! These people have no clue about my laws because they are asking for the exact thing that will save them and their children.”

Leviticus 17:11 speaks about the importance of a life used as an atonement.

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

What a wonderfully cringe-worthy experience that became the salvation of the world.

With Easter season around the corner, let us be thankful for naive requests from the people that should have know better.

Family Devotion: Sin Enters

**Note: Family Devotions is a time when a family can get together to talk about faith and have open discussions about critical questions.  It is okay, not to have answers to their questions, feel free to say, “I don’t know” and search the answers out together as a family.**

Younger Family Activity: Picnic Time

It may be cold in some areas of the country, but here in the Northwest this week it’s going to sunny and nice.

Gather the family together to have a special picnic as a family.   Go out to the park or set it up on the floor of the living room.   I recommend KFC Family Meal at the local park because I love fried chicken and fresh air.  But wherever and whatever you have with your picnic, just have fun.

Have the meal, but set aside something that looks good that isn’t meant to be eaten and tell the family that we can’t have it. A good example would be a chocolate cake.  Eat the meal together, maybe even do a family activity.  Just don’t eat that one item.

After a while and many questions later, tell the story of Genesis 3.  Ask the family, about the story.  Questions could be “How do you think Adam and Eve felt, before and after?”  “Why do you think they disobeyed God?”

Allow the family to enjoy the meal and talk about sin.  How sin is disobeying God’s will, but thankful Jesus came to save us from our sin.  Pray for your family and enjoy the rest of your evening.

Older Family Activity: Would You Rather

Sit down with your family and play would you rather.  Things to consider.

  • Coke or Pepsi
  • Crocs or Flip Flops
  • Cake or Cookie
  • Vanilla Frosty or Chocolate
  • English or Math
  • Dogs or Otters
  • Beach view or Mountain view.

Ask them “What are some choices you make regularly?”

There are some choices you make every day that are a no-brainer or have no significance.  But sometimes there are choices we make that are difficult and can hurt people that we care about.

Genesis 3, Adam and Eve made a selfish choice and because of their choice, they disobeyed God.  Which allowed sin to enter the world.  They made the wrong choice and because of that wrong choice, had to deal with major consequences.  Thankfully we have a God, who forgives us when we sin and because of Jesus, our sins are forgiven.  We still have to deal with the consequences of our bad choices, but we don’t have eternal consequences because of Jesus.

Favorite Part Of My Morning

I am routine kind of person. If I am going to accomplish something, I need to do it consistently at the same time and in the same place. One of the many reasons, I hate vacations is because it takes me entirely out of my routine. So when I come back, everything is hard to get back into a routine.

(I know… I am insane)

For the most part, getting out of routine isn’t a big deal. So what that it takes me a day to get back into a routine at work. It just means that I have to get work a little extra the next day or two. So what that it takes me a little longer to get back into an exercise routine. A day or two (or week or two) won’t impact your life.

But some things are important to maintain my routine consistently. For me, it’s my CAB(s).

(Okay I am a recovering youth pastor from the late 90’s, so that means everything is an acronym)

CAB(s) stands for Coffee, Audible, Bible and Swag, which is my morning 6 am routine. I typically wake up during the 5 am period. I try to wake up around 5 – 515 am. I try to do some exercise, which consists of a light stationary bike, yoga, or if the weather is enjoyable, to take the dog for a walk. If I don’t wake up, I don’t stress out, but it’s an excellent way to get up. If I have time, I might catch up on a television show, podcast, or video game.

At 6 am, it’s time to make the coffee. Right now, I use a single serve pour over coffee, which is an aromatic patient way to make a good cup of coffee. While the kettle is heating up the water, I listen to my Bible reading plan at 1.25 speed, which helps me get through the entire Bible around 250 days (give or take). 1.25 isn’t fast at all and does help especially for Numbers….

By the time, the coffee is ready. It is around 615 (like I said, a patient way), then I sit down to listen to my audiobook, right now I am going through a book of church history. The children will wake up around 630ish and my coffee is almost done, which makes our conversations more relaxing.

The Swag comes from having my phone play videos for cash downstairs which is a little reward for waking up, which helps me pay for the kid’s school supplies and helps with gifts for the year.

Now that is my routine, and it works great if I can wake up in time. I can’t set the alarm, because my beautiful bride is a light sleeper and once she wakes up, she has a difficult time falling back asleep.

I love 5 am; she does not.

So waking up during the 5 am was hit or miss. But this year I made an investment, used my credit rewards, Christmas money and did a few additional surveys and bought an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch has been great because now I can set an alarm which gives me a vibration, that is heavy enough to wake me up but lite enough not to wake up my beautiful bride.

I am almost a month plus into a consistent morning routine, and the watch goes with me, so when I do take a vacation, I can wake up and do my CAB(s).

I want to encourage you not to wake up in the morning but instead find a way to have put a CAB routine in your life. It’s a great half-hour of intentional life, one which improves you spiritually and intellectually. Buy a slow pour coffee, and enjoy God’s word while smelling in the fresh fragrance of God’s greatest creation (coffee bean), then sit and relax drinking your coffee while enjoying a good book.

Try it out for a month, and it will be your favorite part of your day.

Righteous Expecation

pbf150720.gifcomic from Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch via www.gocomics.com

Growing up in the Midwest, you would hear rumblings about a potential snow day.  It would start with a classmate at recess, then maybe confirmation from your teacher, and finally, your parents would spill the beans that yes there is a possibility.

Going to bed, knowing there is a possibility, was almost like Christmas Eve anticipation.  Trying to force yourself to sleep. Then jumping out of bed, running to the window to see if there was some white gold on the gold. If there were snow, the radio and television would be turned on to the look at the closures announcement.  Our school district started with “W,” and I grew up in a large city, it could take awhile to see our the districts name.

Then finally, “Washington Local Schools – Closed”!!!

We would jump up for joy, thinking more video game time and getting to watch Price is Right. But not so fast, sometimes Mom had plans, whether it was going shopping, heading to grandma’s house, or being attended by another adult.

All that expectation ruined by the possibility of something good.  There are only a few things worse than expecting something, then having those expectations and dreams broken by a different reality.

But the Bible speaks of the promise of having the right expectations.

Proverbs 10:28 say’s “The hope of the righteous is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.” (LEB)

The great hope of the righteous is the afterlife, and placing your expectations of this great promise brings gladness.  How can this be?  The most straightforward answer is that having an afterlife focus, should make you live a life about others and not about you.  And when your life a selfless life, then you will have a sense of gladness and purpose.

The other opposite is true as well, as a pastor, I’ve gone through enough counseling sessions dealing heartache and brokenness.  And the primary culprit of this pain is selfishness.

“I want…”

“I desire…”

Selfless brings gladness while selfishness brings pain. And that is why we must fight the urge to be all about “me,” and more about the “we.”

You can’t expect your day to end up the way you wanted it to, but you can hope in God’s promise of everlasting life.

Family Unity

Acts 2:1; 42-47 (ESV)

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place … And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

I have always read this passage thinking solely of a church setting. They all gathered, they devoted to teaching and fellowship, etc.

This past week, when I was thinking about this passage, I thought what happens if I apply these verses to my home life?

I mean the early church was pretty unified, so maybe these disciplines helped create unity with themselves, and if applied to home perhaps we can have more unity in the family.

We are all believers, and we gather together every day with each, so how well do we match up to the early church?

  • Are we devoted to teachings?
    • No
  • Are we devoted to the fellowship?
    • Yes
  • Breaking of Bread and Prayer?
    • Yes
  • Do we share our possessions?
    • Yes
  • Do we attend church together?
    • Yes
  • Generous?
    • Depends – we have young kids.

Not to shabby with the assessment, but the one that stuck out to me was the very first.

Devoted to teaching.

We have separate devotions, but we don’t share our thoughts. So there is learning but no teaching.

Even though we are missing one occasionally two (again we have two young kids), that one is a huge one. Teaching is fundamental in the upbringing of kids. So we have changed this, and it wasn’t very hard.

We just read the Gospel Passage from Book of Common Prayer at dinnertime, and then we ask one question. One question usually gives five to ten minutes of discussion with each other.

That is it. Have we been unified? Time will tell, but dinnertime has been more meaningful and thought provocating.

Give it a try yourself.