Fighting That Monday Morning Feeling…On Tuesday

feeling-the-blues-rodrick-strelauThe Good Book blog (one you really should check out) offers Scripture each Monday morning, usually taking pastors into consideration. This was their offering yesterday:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. – 1 Timothy 1:15-17

It’s Tuesday, I know, but that doesn’t mean those feelings, those premonitions, those hard jabs to the soul disappear as soon as the clock strikes 12.01 a.m. on Tuesday. So, this passage is a good remedy for the blues seeking to swallow me up. It is a trustworthy saying. It is the truth (‘…the word of the Lord proves true…’ – 2 Samuel 22.31). Deserving of full acceptance, of repeated reading out loud, of constant preaching to myself: He came to save me, a sinner. He demonstrated His love for me, while I was still a sinner. And He still does!

Amen.

Monday Morning Pastor-back

MMPB PulpitThe wind sweeps the snow off the flat roof like the waves of the sea crashing upon the shore. What was once a beautiful layer of light, finely shaped flakes of snow, once dashed upon the sidewalk below takes on the consistency of concrete. Packed. Stacked. And drifted. It’s amazing how something so gorgeous can become so much toil, labor, sweat and back-pain inducing work.

The wing of our church building runs east-west. This means, in Minnesota, at least, during the winter, that any snow which may fall (and trust me, we’ve had an above average amount this winter so far) upon the flat roof will blow off quickly to the sidewalk below. And get packed in in a drift about two feet deep, two-three feet wide, about fifteen feet long. I don’t mind the shoveling when it’s all light and fluffy. It’s the rock-hard drift, especially on Sunday morning that’s a real drag.

Blowing_snow_off_a_roof[1]My weekend of ministry issues was like that: beautiful matters and events planned out, loving people of God involved, no dread of what was to come in my soul. Then the winds blew, the loveliness is swept away and much is left packed hard in front of me.

When the sidewalk gets caked in, I roll up my sleeves (figuratively, of course; it’s freezing out there!), grab the shovel, grit my teeth and get after it. Grunts and groans, and scoop after scoop later, the task is done.

Of course, the spiritual equivalent in pastoral ministry means something similar: long moments (or hours) of heavy lifting to clear the path. Removing the pride or selfishness, confessing the foolishness or harsh word, letting the freezing winds of self-pity and doubt blow on by while warming myself by the Word and prayer.

2182100_99a98d83I don’t normally succumb to that blue funk of Monday morning that many pastors struggle with. Not normally. But through much of yesterday, the battle raged. Fight the fight for faith? Or give in to sinful despair? Scratch for glimpses of joy? (Yes, you do have to scratch and claw and dig for joy sometimes; it doesn’t just fall off trees like my grandmother would have said.) Or allow the clouds and gloom of frustration settle in and linger for…who knows how long?

So, here’s to the preacher actually applying his message to himself: get after it with some desperately dependent prayer. After all, didn’t we read Psalm 4 out loud together? Didn’t it mean anything?

Time to get shoveling’!

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Confession, Apology, and just a bit of teaching

This past Sunday (01.19.14), the dear people of Cornerstone EFC put up with some of my ‘speak-first-and-don’t-think-if-I-should-be-quiet’ moments. We were discussing developing a Christian worldview in light of modern medicine and end-of-life issues. A panel of four medical professionals (three doctors and one research engineer) helped us with a definition of death, when that occurs, why it’s difficult to measure and what should we, as Christians, do as we or a loved one approaches that point.

The question was asked by someone in the larger group, ‘What about those who testify to having died, visited heaven and returned to earth? Some books have been written recently about this.’ To which I promptly said, ‘Bunk; pure bunk. Don’t buy them. Don’t read them.’ While I hold to that advice and won’t back down from that, I went on to speak out of ignorance, not out of knowledge. I said these books (primarily two came to mind and were mentioned by others in the group: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Heaven is Real by Todd Burpo) made few, if any, references to seeing Christ while in heaven.

I was wrong and I apologize. I ask the forgiveness of those who heard me say this. I was speaking beyond my knowledge, clearly an unwise thing to do for anyone, but especially for a pastor.

However, and I don’t mean this to take away from my request for anyone’s forgiveness, I do stand behind my advice to avoid these books. If they have been read by any of you, then seek to forget what you’ve read and go read another book, called The Bible, to see what it says about heaven. Heaven is real, not because of a man’s or young boy’s experience. You and I cannot base our hope upon the experience of others. Our hope is to be grounded in Jesus Christ, the only One who has opened the door to heaven for us. Be very cautious (and not just with these heavenly tourism type of books) with anything that seeks to have you, the reader, putting your faith and trust into heaven (or any other Scriptural concept) based upon someone’s experience of it. The problem with doing this is: it’s not your experience. You weren’t there. You can neither affirm or deny it.

Instead, we who believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative and all-sufficient Word of the One, True and Living God, trust that. The Bible does give us glimpses of heaven, but they are far from complete. Note carefully, in 2 Corinthians 12, that no less a figure than the Apostle Paul was ‘caught up to the third heaven’. Did he write a best-selling popular book about his discoveries and experiences? No; in fact, he says, ‘he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.’ Not only did he not, could he not talk about it, what he then experienced was not the world-wide fame and fortune many authors of heavenly tourism books receive, but rather ‘…to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.’

I was wrong in my assertions about some of the content of these books. I was adamant in those assertions in a rather foolish manner. I now see that. Wisdom tells me that caution would have been the better part of valor that day.

If you wish to read some other’s comments about such books on heavenly visitations, here are a few links to check out:

 

Pray In Christ’s Name

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Though we frequently end our prayers with ‘for Jesus’ sake,’ we often pray for our own sake. Although we condemn the doctrine of salvation by our own good works and believe in salvation by grace based upon Christ’s merits, this truth is often missing in a practical way in our daily prayer life.

We tend to think that when we have warm feelings, a lively sense of deep reverence, a feeling of heart humility, a close sense of God’s presence, or real earnestness for the Lord, that God will then hear our prayer. If we reason this way, on what foundation are we basing our judgment? Do we truly believe that God will hear our prayer for Jesus’ sake, or for ours? Do we think that God will be pleased, on the basis of our feelings, to give us what we have asked for? Do we believe that our prayers themselves deserve to be heard, answered, and rewarded by a perfect God, who can only be please by perfect righteousness? If so, we are denigrating the perfections of God – His divine attributes – to our own level and thereby insulting His holy, infinite Being.

One clear evidence of this problem in Christians’ prayer lives is when we spend more time preparing to come to Christ than in actually coming to Him.

Praying in Christ’s name requires repudiating praying in our own name. It not only testifies of our status as sinners but also of Christ’s status as Savior – of our sin, and His grace! No wonder Scripture lovingly commands us to pray in the name of Christ.

from Developing a Healthy Prayer Life: 31 Meditations on Communing with God by James W. Beeke and Joel R. Beeke, Reformation Heritage Books: Grand Rapids, MI. 2010. (pages 4, 6)

Tuesday Morning Pastor-back

Well, that didn’t work out…once again.

The company who hosts this site has had its share of problems since near the end of the year. It looked like that was all worked out when they discovered that anyone who uses Word Press (like I do) through their web hosting was vulnerable to serious hacking attacks. So, they had to ‘block things’ out and introduce new security measures.

All that’s to say: I hope this thing is fixed.

The good thing is this: it’s given me a brief respite from posting and I’ve welcomed that. Now, on to matters at hand.

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Imagine if this was me, following a particularly moving sermon on a Sunday morning:

If I entertained any such notions, I can tell you, I would either be:

1) looking for a new church

or more likely…

2) searching for a new place of employment outside the church and pastoral ministry.

Richard Sherman’s tirade, no matter how he explains it, or even how much his apologists try to excuse it because they ‘like a player with lots of passion’, none of them can ever hope to understand what true humility is. Unless they are humbled, they won’t be humble.

I bring all this up in relation to preaching and pastoral ministry, not because I fear I might ‘go off’ like this some Sunday morning, but because pride, arrogance and hubris don’t always look like this. Sin can be, oh, so subtle. The sin of pride is perhaps the worst, because it can lurk in the shadows of my heart, garnering all the ‘Thank you, Pastor, that was such an excellent message’ and ‘You really touched my heart today, Pastor’ and ‘I don’t know how you do it, every Sunday, but you just get better every day.’

Don’t get me wrong…I seek to be grateful for each person and receive the encouragement from them. Yet I fight for faith in Jesus Christ and His all-sufficiency, for without that, I’d start to think I was really something and why hasn’t a bigger church noticed me and how come some radio ministry isn’t calling me and asking me to host a daily program and…well, you get the picture. I can’t be humble without Christ. So, I seek to put on Christ, especially on Sunday mornings, so that His humiliation will be constantly in my vision, reminding me of what He has done for me.

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My message this past Lord’s Day has opened a door for lots of discussion and many a question. Galatians 6.1–5 was my text. ‘Bearing One Another’s Burdens’ was my theme. Challenging us to establish and maintain an atmosphere of biblical counseling was my goal. I’m convinced entirely of the sufficiency of God’s Word. Everything I need for life and godliness has been given me in Christ Jesus and in the precious promises which are already ‘Amen-ed’ in Him. This is the truth for every single person who is in Christ Jesus by grace through faith. So, when it comes to anxiety (and all its subsequent issues–fear, panic, etc) or anger (and its subsequent issues–rage, abuse, etc) or even addictions (and all their subsequent hardships, whether it be alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc), I believe the Bible is sufficient to address and bring healing to our souls.

Do we need psychotherapy? Not if it’s not rooted, grounded and based solely upon the Bible.

Do we need medications? Perhaps only for a very short time, in rare situations, in order to bring the symptoms under control so that the heart may be addressed.

Do we need professional counselors? Only as a ‘final resort’. Our first recourse should be to think, ‘I need to call my pastor’ or the elders or my brother in Christ or my sister in Christ. Sadly, our brothers and sisters in Christ are usually some of the last people we call for help until matters have gone so far as to almost seem hopeless.

Yet they are never hopeless. Not if Christ is the Son of God. Not if Christ has died on the cross and risen from the grave. Not if Christ reigns from the right hand of the Father in heaven. Hard? That almost goes without saying. Trying? Indubitably. However, the Word is sufficient because our God is sufficient.

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It was a ‘heavy’ Sunday: our Adult Sunday School class is discussing Christ and vocation, our work and calling by God. Some great times, marvelous questions, and a striving to bring all things to bear under the Word of God.

Following the morning service, we gathered for one final panel discussion on Christian worldview and modern medicine as it pertains to end-of-life issues. The panel consisted of four medical professionals (three physicians and one medical research/test/diagnostic engineer). We have several nurses and others who were invited to join in as they could. I believe the end was a glorifying time, provoking us to think, to trust the Lord, who has our days numbers (Psalm 139.14–16), and helping us speak compassionately and serve lovingly.

How was your Lord’s Day?

Lots About A Little…or Something Like That

This ‘dryness’ in blogging continues a bit. There have been many people matters at church, meetings and then there’s just all the regular ministry matters. It doesn’t leave time for much ‘outside’ thinking and I can’t write about the people matters. So here are some rapid fire thoughts, a few links from others I think are definitely worth your time and reading.

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I heard about a woman I know (she does NOT go to Cornerstone; not sure if she goes to any church…which says a lot about where I’m going with this) who, at an advanced age (let’s just say, over 60) who had her eyes tattooed with permanent eyeliner so she no longer has to apply it each day. What? They really do that? I almost never get surprised or caught off guard by anything people do any more, but tattooed eyeliner? You’ve got to be kidding me. She spoke of how badly it hurt…TOO BAD! It’s your eye lids. It’s supposed to hurt, warning you of objects that could poke your eyes out…like sharp needles filled with ink! ‘It hurt so bad I almost quit, but I only had one eye done.’ Yeah, well that would have made you look clownish. Song lyrics came to mind:

‘Years I spent in vanity and pride; now I’ve had it permanently applied!’

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Map of the Seven Deadly Sins in America

I don’t know how they go about doing the research on things like this, but it’s a little fascinating to me. The one other question I have is this: why only seven?

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(At least Minnesotans can claim the ‘Minnesota Nice’ thing)

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Netflix and Binge Viewing

We used to subscribe to Netflix several years ago and we saw this happening with our two youngest children. So, we simply canceled the account. No more problems. What about you? Do you subscribe? Do you watch a whole season as quickly as you can?

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Judges Deny Chimpanzees ‘Personhood’

This is a bit old (from last month), but it’s been sitting in my ‘Blog Observations’ folder on Evernote since then, so I wanted to clear it out. Fascinating that the group filing suit to get them personhood had done their background research on the judges, but still failed to convince some very animal-friendly judicial benches. It won’t be long though, you know, until this gains momentum and goes through. After that, they’ll be groups wanting to file for marital rights for them as well. I mean, why not. We’re all just a bag of chemicals living and walking around this planet for a few short years. Why not let them do what they want? Man’s never been given dominion over them…oh wait.

 

It May Be January in Minnesota…

Minnesota Storms

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…but inside the blogging portion of my mind, this is a bit more realistic…

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So, I’ll see what happens today and report back tomorrow! Stay warm (or cool, depending upon where you live. And all you blog observers in Khazikstan [yes, I check my statistics report weekly…I know you're out there lurking], enjoy the photos!)