Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's Not Easy

“My last sentence is simply this: The world is lost, the God of the Bible does exist; the world is lost, but truth is truth, keep on! And for how long? I’ll tell you. Keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on, and then keep on!” -----Francis A. Schaeffer

HT: Ray Ortlund

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Character Matters

We (I) spend alot of time debating and thinking through different philosophies of ministry, techniques of how to do things, and models of organizing the Church.

These things aren't as important as doctrine, or theology. . . . but as a leader in the church we do need to search the bible to flesh out how we're going to "do church" and where the bible is silent, make wise decisions based on our doctrine, history, and gifts that he's given us.

As I was thinking through some of these things this week, it hit me again. . . that the models, methods, and philosophy don't matter as much as the character of the leaders who are implementing those things. Great philosophy, in the wrong hands, is not a win.

You can be the most successful mega-church, seeker, evangelistic pastor there ever was. . . but if you have a deep-seated need to be liked by folks, or to be accepted in what you say. . . .that will sabotage your ministry at some level. Even small "personality quirks" that seem like elementary issues (such as needing to be liked) can get in the way of ministering to glorify God (because in that sense. . . you're ministering for your own glory or "need" at some level).

On the other side of that philosophical coin. . if there is a hard-line conservative pastor who is ruthless in his commitment to the truth, preaching sound doctrine, honoring the history of the church in everything you do. . . . and yet, you have an inner need to "be right" about everything and win every argument, never being proven wrong. . . that will sabotage the effectiveness of your ministry. Again, you're fighting to be right and to "fill a hole" at a heart-level. . instead of feeding Christ's sheep.

Some try to solve these problems with rules and reg's. to "hem in" the pastor's personal quirks and help keep him "in bounds" in all that he does. Others try to solve these problems by protecting the pastor with handlers (kind of like a politician), yes men, and publicity monitors who don't let their pastor come under attack for anything he does or has said.

There's nothing inherently wrong with either of those solutions. . . (we should protect pastors with rules, and personal help). But, it doesn't help at the deepest level.

Colossians 2:20-24 (English Standard Version)

20If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" 22 referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Those are pretty strong words; "no value". Bottom line, rules and accountability won't ultimately help if our motivations and hearts aren't changed by the gospel, . . .and continually changed through God's Word and repentance.

This weekend was a weekend for churches to put their best foot forward, theologically, and practically, as many non-Christians were in church and it is the key weekend on the Christian calendar (we like to call it Super Bowl Sunday around here :) ) . But, all of the great methods, services, and successes in the world can't fix a sinful heart, and can't hide character flaws.

Now, none of us has "arrived" on these things. (I've sabotaged myself today a few times already. . . things coming out of my mouth crippling my effectiveness as a minister) But, simply an awareness of our folly and reluctance due to our own sin and wounded-ness is a good place to start. Then comes the oh-so-difficult ability to rejoice in others' success and find our ultimate salvation at the Cross. . . not in anything we've "pulled off" or "accomplished".

Thanks be to God for the Cross, so that we can come and lay down our desires to succeed, be right, and be liked. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who can change us. . since there are no perfect pastors and there is no one who is ministering in the absence of any wounded-ness.

God is at work, and for us to effectively serve Him, we need to ask Him to deal with the subtle inclinations of our hearts, and yes, our character. It matters.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hope Does Not Disappoint

It's not popular to hold on to ultimate hope. We're either encouraged to just "hang on" because life sucks (to which there is some truth) or to smile and have faith because Jesus will give us everything we want (to which there is no truth. . . he'll give us much more than that. . one day).

I've been thinking through this dichotomy lately. We're not in the midst of easy days in the Casa De Britton. There are plenty of reasons for discouragement. Many of my friends are currently in crisis (others don't see that they should be in crisis and be broken over what's happening in their lives), and the days seem to pass quickly, sometimes without feeling like much has been accomplished. Life, it seems, is happening to us sometimes, more often than we're initiating things we want to happen.

That's where the empty tomb comes in.

We're often disappointed because God did not come through for us like we wanted Him to. Perhaps we can't have something we want. . . perhaps things are changing and we don't like it.

Making God the means to some other end will always end in disappointment. We either can't see/trust His providential reasons in orchestrating things a certain way. . . or we actually get what we wanted and aren't satisfied (which is inevitable).

Both of those responses come from seeing other things as ultimate. God is not the means to another end. He is the good news, He is the goal, He is our joy, He is the fountain.

Yes, we take joy in his good gifts, . . . just not in an ultimate way.

One of the less-discussed days of Easter week is Saturday. The day of discouragement and ambivalence. Can you imagine the disciples discouragement? Can you imagine the Kurt Cobain/despondent/Van Gogh levels of "who cares?" "there's no point to life!" "why did all of this happen, what was the purpose?" among the disciples?

But, then there was Sunday. Christ arose. Circumstances for the disciples did not change. But, their joy was back.

There will also be a "Sunday" for us, when we will be raised again to Eternal Life, and fullness of Joy, if we put our faith, and ultimate desire/hope in Christ (not as a means to some other end).

That Eternal kind of life is foreshadowed now in our enjoyment of God, through Christ. Have you stopped this week to think about how awesome Christ is? How glorious the Cross is? The empty Tomb? Have you thought about how ultimate and all-encompasing "the same power that raised Christ from the dead" is? And how "that is the same power that is at work in us".

Ephesians 1:18-22 (New International Version, ©2011)

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,

These are heart-lifting, depression-killing truths. I hope you have some time to think about them this week. There is an empty tomb. Death is conquered. The disappointments of this life will end, the struggles will end. Their power is already defeated in the cross. . we don't have to be crushed by them.

It's Saturday. . .but Sunday's comin'

Monday, April 18, 2011

Two new books

I'll spare the details of why I haven't blogged in a month. . . . But, I promise I've spoken with all 5 of my readers in that span of time.

I feel a little like I have too much to say, so for now I'll recommend some books.

1) This is a lesson I still struggle to learn (and I wish I had grasped somewhat when I was in college). Oh, how I wish I wouldn't have made so many decisions because of "The Grass is Greener Conspiracy".

2) I like it that they do book trailers now. . . kind of like a feature film. So, check out the little movie and the book looks great too. Sometimes we forget we're being tempted and ignore obvious signs that things are not what they seem to be.