Can I Edit My Life?

Have you ever wished your life was like a Microsoft Word document where you could cut parts of your story and paste them into someone else’s life or just highlight and delete portions and leave mysterious gaps so you wouldn’t have to face that those things ever happened? I have. You have maybe left certain places you lived off your Facebook profile because of the painful memories that are associated with that place or removed every memory of a painful relationship because it seems easier to pretend that the relationship never happened than to face the pain and trauma it may have brought to your life.

We all have our defense mechanisms. One thing I have learned – you will eventually have to process the pain and grief of those traumatic times of your life.  Pastors and families often take years to heal from being fired from churches. If they weren’t fired, many were treated horribly and left feeling useless in God’s kingdom work. Wives or husbands were dumped for “something better”, only to deal with the feeling that they were used and unwanted while the other spouse goes on without a second glance. The list goes on.

There is a Healer, and His name is Jesus. I have learned personally that the healing process never happens as quickly as we would like. That does not mean that God is absent. You may not be able to cut and paste or highlight and delete in real life, but I can assure you that there is a point where the hurt and the Healer collide. I pray that the song below will minister to you in your brokenness and give you hope and strength to move forward.

God Said That? About Moses?

“But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭34:10-12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Have you ever heard someone say something complimentary about another person, and you didn’t think that person deserved such a compliment? It would almost be like giving Hitler a compliment. Well…not that extreme! But imagine you think about all the baggage a person brings, and you can’t seem to come up with a compliment for that person.

This could have been the attitude toward Moses. Think about it for a moment! Moses was a murderer. He got so angry that he broke the original tablet (not Apple or Android) on which the Ten Commandments were etched. This man could not see the Promised Land, yet God has such a wonderful thing to say about Moses as He ends the book of Deuteronomy.

Let’s go a step further! When we come to Christ for salvation, our sin is erased. I will never be able to fully understand this beautiful truth, but God the Father can look on us because the righteousness of Christ has been applied to us. The Father can make such a beautiful statement about us despite our horrible past.

If someone has been radically changed by Jesus Christ, we cannot spend our time dwelling on that person’s past. God has forgiven it, and He can help us do the same.

On the Air in 5…

I do not consider myself to be an on air personality by any means, but I was contacted a few weeks ago by a lady named Bridgett Banks. She hosts the “Ignite Your Purpose Radio Show” on Blog Talk Radio. Bridgett invited me to discuss the state of the 21st century church in relation to COVID-19. I saw it as a door God opened and did not turn it down. Despite some technical glitches, it was a good experience. Here is the link to the program: https://www.blogtalkradio.com/iypradio/2020/04/01/ignite-your-purpose-radio-show-the-state-of-the-21st-century-church.

I have been contemplating a podcast for quite some time too. Once again, I am a novice, but I believe there are some things that need to get out there. The podcast will be for both pastors and those in the seats. We will hit some hot topics that pastors need to address in addition to some things those who aren’t in leadership need to help them navigate through issues relevant to them. The title will be in keeping with my blog “Honest Thoughts from a Pastor”. Go like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/honestthoughtspodcast. The actual podcast will be up and running in a few weeks.

Anything God has done through me continues to blow my mind. I give Him all the glory. Please do not hesitate to contact me through the “contact” page here. I am here to serve.

Churchy Talk: “I’ve Got a Burden”

We’ve all heard it. There is a generic language we here in most places – home, Walmart, work, and on the ball field. Then there’s “Christianese”. It’s a special language only known to those in church culture. It varies from church to church, but much of it is the same across the board.

I asked my Twitter audience for thoughts on the subject, and you will be ready about my top picks from that as I continue the series. While we joke about the language of the churched, I will strive to explain these words and sayings that seem to make no sense (especially to those who are not so familiar with the church).

I remember hearing missionaries speak in churches about having a “burden for the lost”. It sounded horrible. Who wants a burden, right? We typically think of a burden as a heavy load or something oppressive. Why would pastors and missionaries go on and on about having a burden?

A definition that is often unconsidered is “duty or responsibility”. When pastors or missionaries speak of having a burden for the lost, they speak of the responsibility they have from God to share the gospel. While that can seem oppressive (or any other burden/responsibility for that matter), it also motivates us. I, to a fault, am duty-driven. I do things because they have to be done. It took me several years to move from duty to delight in Christian service, so being able to minister from joy rather than drudgery is liberating.

So, the next time you hear someone in church talk about having a burden for something that is a command from God, I hope you’ll understand it a little more.

Pastoring Through Pandemic

I wish colleges and seminaries offered a class called “Pastoring Through a Pandemic”. Unfortunately, there is no such class. There is also not a class for what to do when a female senior citizen shows up to the door dressed inappropriately when you go visit the home, but let’s stay on subject. Because we learn so much by trial and error, here are some of my thoughts.

Forget the Sunday show and give them substance. You might be tempted to record services with light shows and smoke, but I’m not sure how effective that will be when people want to hear a word from God during an uncertain time. You may also be tempted to spend hours polishing a sermon in order to deliver beautiful exegesis like you were taught in seminary, but people don’t need a performance right now. Be true to Scripture while delivering hope.

Pray like you’ve never prayed before. Pastors need guidance from God in these unnavigated waters. American pastors know little to nothing about this stuff. Let’s tune into Heaven so we know we have a word from God.

Reach out to people. Today’s pastors are trained more like CEOs rather than servants of the Most High God, so some are not prone to reach out personally to those within the church. It’s time to be humble, approachable, relatable, and pick up the phone to make a real call using our voice to show we care. In this period of isolation, make a concentrated effort to reach out to those who have no family. One call will mean the world to them.

Make your online ministry personal. Our pastor and staff did a remarkable job at this last weekend. We will need to go beyond the usual stream of the actual service and have live chats, small group meetings through things such as Zoom, and do whatever we can to keep people connected.

Maybe you have some other creative ways to minister through this. I would love to hear the thoughts of others. We are on the same team, so let’s get rid of the competition mentality that exists between pastors and churches. Let’s work together so that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is more united than ever when we are on the other side of this!

The Strangest Sunday Ever

For the last 4 1/2 months, I have been getting out of bed between 6:30-7:00 am to get ready to leave to lead worship for our 9:30 traditional service. Today was much different.

Because of my interim/part-time role at the church, I do not have the time invested into it that our regular staff pastors have. They work throughout the week at the church while I am a hospice chaplain. I felt disconnected, so I was thankful to have been asked by our pastor to be present in case anyone happened to show up. No one did, but I stayed around and watched the live stream.

As I drove to the church, I looked around at the businesses that have had to change plans. The shortage of cars on the road. So many things that were different. It was strange.

Do you know what else is strange? That it would take a thing like this to get our attention. God has been trying to get our attention in various ways, but this virus has us sitting up and listening a little better.

God has a strange way of doing things…strange to us at least! He knows exactly what He is doing. Scripture says His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. So while everything seems so strange at the moment, let’s lean on the One who loves us like no other.

An Encounter with the Lord

I came across this sermon outline I preached over 10 years ago. God’s word is still as powerful today, so I trust it will leave you longing for an encounter with the Lord.

In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord. This moment changed him. Anyone who has had an encounter with the Lord will testify of a changed life. When we see the Lord, how are we changed?

We see God for who He really is (Isaiah 6:1-4). In this scene, God is exalted above all (v. 1). Everything in Heaven worships Him (v. 2), recognizing His holiness (v. 3) and omnipotence (v. 4).

When we see God for who He really is, we see ourselves for who we really are (v. 5). We see that we are dead in our trespasses and sins without Him. We find ourselves speechless and without excuse in God’s presence because our righteous efforts are like filthy rags (later referenced in Isaiah).

In this revelation, we realize the price paid for our sin (vv. 6, 7). Isaiah’s price was the burning coal on his lips, showing him there is a price to be paid. On this side of the cross, we know that Jesus paid the price for our sin.

We respond in obedience and surrender (vv 8-13). Isaiah said, “Here am I.” God commissioned Isaiah at that moment to go.

As we reflect on Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord, it did not bring him tingly feelings. It came with difficult realizations, repentance, and surrender. While we do have those sweet moments, we must know that encounters with God are never contrary to Scripture. They lead us to a life of holiness.

My prayer for you is that you have daily encounters with God. May each day draw you deeper in your faith and understanding of our holy God.

State of the Church: Pre-, Mid-, and Post-COVID-19

This pandemic has caused me to think a lot about the state of the church. I believe much about the church has already been exposed, and much will be revealed when we are on the other side of this. Some of what I will share will be more of a hopeful forecast, but I will share it anyway.

I see the state of the church pre-COVID-19 as attractional. It is almost like each local church is similar to a dating relationship – look good to draw him in, do things in order to keep him, but not do the best job of being attentive after time passes.

I see that the state of the church mid-COVID-19 will be surprised. We have not had a prolonged time (in my lifetime) when we had been faced with missing a few weeks of worship together with the potential of more than that. We have not had to cancel rehearsals and meetings, pausing much of our way of ministry for a prolonged period. We honestly don’t know what to do. One pastor commented on Facebook that we have spent most days trying to find ways to fill the seats, while now we must focus on how to get the message to the people. We are at a place where we must figure out how to do the work of Jesus Christ outside a well-planned church service.

I see the state of the post-COVID-19 church as refocused. If we allow the lessons of this season to teach us, we will become much better at daily fulfilling the Great Commission rather than just trying to do it on Sunday. We will find ways to strike up gospel conversations and actually be the church. We will learn the value of making contact with people by phone conversations and video calls, making use of every possible way to connect. The church of the Lord Jesus will learn the value of the family of God once again and love each other the way we should have all along.

I would love to hear and read the thoughts of others about this matter. Some of you are much deeper in the trenches of church life than I am. We may disagree or have a different perspective on the matter, but I do believe we can agree on one thing – what we do now can change the trajectory of the American church. Let’s determine to change it for the better!

What We Should Have Been Doing the Whole Time

It’s amazing how difficulty directs our perspective. Our priorities are so distorted that it takes a very serious virus to make us do what we should have been doing all along. I should probably clarify what I don’t mean by that.

We should not have been buying hundreds of dollars in toilet paper all this time. I work with mostly women. They were in high panic mode that we might not have toilet paper this past Monday. The toilet paper hoarders about sent my office into a breakdown.

Now that I have clarified that…

We should have slowed down enough to spend quality time with our families. It has been nice this week not having to pick up kids from various events and not having to attend my own usual meetings. I simply work then come home. We eat together. We don’t have to rush through the evening rituals. It’s a beautiful thing!

God has been trying to get our attention for a long time. He kept saying, “Be still.” Each time, He got louder. Then it took a disaster to get our attention. Still, there are many who are getting out in the large crowds and disregarding the warnings. For those of us who are trying to slow down the spread of this, it has altered life. But, it has been refreshing.

Slow down. Take in the fresh air. Listen to the breeze and the silence. Look around at God’s creation. Let this time bring you to the place where you need to be. When the dust settles, may these lead to proper priorities that stick. Our overall health will benefit.

Responding to the Coronavirus

I must be honest. This virus is probably the biggest health concern I have seen in my lifetime. Many looked at this when it hit foreign countries and thought, “This will never hit the U. S.” It has. We have some who show no concern while others are stricken with fear. Where is the balance in all this?

Prayer is part of this balance. We should be praying for those who have been affected. We should be praying for each other that we make wise decisions in relation to exposure, etc. We need to pray for a miracle – a divine intervention. God is able, and there is no greater time to pray than now.

Consideration for others is part of this balance. I think of the verse in Romans 12 – “in honor, preferring one another”. I also think of the example of Jesus as reflected in Philippians 2 – focus on the welfare of others above self. Many are refusing to take precautions such as self-quarantine because of selfish reasons like toilet paper hoarding or just the desire to be out rather than trapped at home. Let’s think about the risk of us contracting something that would spread to those whose immune systems are compromised. This is a huge thing that could have helped matters a long time ago.

The extension of kindness toward others whose opinions differ is somewhere in this balance. I have read everything from intense medical facts to thoughts of this being a conspiracy. Now is not the time to be arguing.

It is high time we put ourselves aside for the greater good. It is not a time to panic. God is not caught off guard. Let’s trust Him even when many are scared. Our faith is a great witness, so let Jesus shine in the midst of this uncertainty.