Like every relationship I like to know where things stand, where they are going, and I love knowing what I enjoy most with the people I am around. God typically shatters this. My relationship with Him tends to go against the grain of every other relationship I have.
This issue is control. I have a tendency to want to have tight control on my relationships. I am rarely stuck in a spot I don’t want to be.
With God, it doesn’t ever work like this. I am never the one in control. Things rarely happen how I plan or desire them to work out. When I am really looking for God to show up he typically always does, but rarely in the way I was hoping for.
My best moments with God are when I feel like a broken sinner and yet he fills me with awe and wonder. There are seasons, days, moments when despair can be the winning emotion and feeling. Yet, when things tend to go dark is when I most deeply feel these moment of grandeur of who God is and his glory.
My best moments with God is when he totally takes me off guard. When God throws something totally unexpected, unplanned at me I am often filled with joy and wonder because I know something supernatural is happening. Too many times I am the one that tries to counterfeit spiritual experiences or order and plan my life out. I attempt to be God way too often.
Glimpses of His glory, goodness and grace typically come when I need them most and am looking for them the least. It is as if God keeps letting me see my depravity so he can put me back in awe and wonder of who He is and what He has done on my behalf.
Yes, my best moments with God are when I “taste and see” that He is good and I quickly forget about myself.
I am going to start a new series simply called, “Life Changing Books.” In this series I am simply going to walk through several books that were very life changing for me in my pursuit of Christ. God has used a very wide array of books and authors from very different theological backgrounds to shape who I am today.
I am extremely grateful for the many, many authors that God has used in my life to strengthen my walk with Him. This will be a fun series for me as I reflect on the different ways God has worked in my life through a diverse group of books.
I finished “The Pastor” by Eugene Peterson. After reading less last year than I have since High School I was committed to stepping up my game this year. Little did I know, the first book I grabbed was incredibly profound and impacted me greatly.
It is the first full book I have ever read by Eugene Peterson, but I have purchased 4 more as read it and already owned another previously. I am very much looking forward to making him one of my few authors that I commit to reading as much of his work as I can.
Moving on to the point of this post…
3 Brief Thoughts From “The Pastor:”
1) It was simply great hearing the heart of a man that gratefully enjoyed the calling that God gave him. I love that God has called me to pastoral ministry. I can’t imagine doing something else. This is probably why I found Eugene Peterson’s memoir so encouraging. You can’t get away from all the bad statistics about burnout, horror stories with churches, etc. It is encouraging to read about such a long, happy pastorate.
2) The Pastor was a breath of fresh air in the American Climate of pastoral ministry. Like, Peterson, I fear that the true nature and identity of the pastorate has taken a serious hit in America and Peterson does a great job dealing with this. What I appreciate most though isn’t his moments of critique, it is when he describes what he sees biblically about the pastorate. His descriptions of pastoral ministry grabbed my heart and resonated with me profoundly.
3) Eugene Peterson did a better job at explaining and depicting the relationship to every day normal life and pastoral calling than anything else I have read. He understands pastoral ministry as much more than praying, preaching, and “other duties.” He sees pastoral identity as affecting every area of life and showed how to faithfully function in that reality in the day to day tasks of life. It reminded me of Matthew Redmonds, “The God of the Mundane.”
I am sure I will write a lot more about this book and Eugene Peterson in the future… This will have to be true as I also work through his other pastoral writings. But, as I just finished the book those were the three things that most stuck out to me.
For those of you who have also read it, what most resonated with you?
I have been reading through 1 Corinthians the last couple days and I felt punched in the gut when I got to chapter 12. I have been a Christians for almost 11 years and in the full time ministry for 3 years. I am absolutely grateful that God saved me and I feel incredibly blessed that he called me into pastoral ministry.
With that said, there sure are times when sitting on the sidelines looks nice. I can’t be the only pastor that feels this way. As a pastor it can also be disheartening seeing so many people claiming the name of Jesus yet sitting on the sidelines week after week.
Possibly why it can be disheartening is because of the seasons when it looks so attractive. There are certainly weeks were a “regular 9-5 job” and getting to simply “attend church” with my family sounds awesome. What 1 Corinthians 12 shows me, though, is that really isn’t an option for any Christian. In this chapter Paul is clearly laying out that every single Christian has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit to contribute to the common good. We all ought to be working for the edification of the saints around us and the common good.
For myself, when the sidelines look nice I can usually find selfish, ungodly reasons for why the sideline is all of a sudden so attractive. Typically, I hate the sidelines. I want to be in the middle of the madness.
When the sidelines look attractive I have to remind myself of three great truths that 1 Corinthians 12 pulls out:
- “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” God does not make mistakes and he knows what he is doing. He has put us in the game for a reason.
- “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit.” It can make us very tired when we start functioning out of our own power and might. Why weren’t only given gifts by the Holy Spirit, He is also the one who empowers us for the work. We can lean on him.
- “For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” Paul spends two full paragraphs making the point that though we are all very different we quite desperately need one another. We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines because it isn’t only us that it affects.
Here is a quick summary of how it looks in 1 Corinthians 12:
- God has saved us and manifested his Spirit to us for the common good.
- We each have received specific gifts and are empowered by the Spirit to use those gifts.
- God has arranged it in a way that all gifts are needed for the health of the church and the advancement of God’s kingdom.
Fellow Christians, I know the sidelines can look nice, but we only have one race to run. God has graciously saved us and now he empowers us. Let us live out what we have received from the gospel of God through the Spirit of God.
It Multiplied by Ray Ortlund
I remember hearing Michael Green at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. He asked us, Why don’t we see anywhere in the book of Acts a man-made strategic plan for evangelizing the world? His answer: They didn’t have one.
What then did they have? Two things, for starters: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
In the fear of the Lord, they were teachable, they were humble, they were listening to the gospel, they were open and grateful and easily bendable. They did not have a spirit of self-assurance. They were eager to learn and grow and change in any way the Lord wanted them to.
5 Observations about Younger Southern Baptists by Trevin Wax
As a young Southern Baptist/Acts 29 pastor I thought his article was spot on.
His 5 points (but go read the whole thing):
1. Younger Southern Baptists have chastened expectations regarding political engagement.
2. Younger Southern Baptists tend to be Reformed-ish.
3. Younger Southern Baptists tend to be theologically conservative without holding to certain cultural distinctives.
4. Younger Southern Baptists are all over the spectrum when it comes to eschatology.
5. Younger Southern Baptists are focused more on local church ministry and less on Convention meetings.
Lighten Up, Christians: God Loves a Good Time by N.D. Wilson
We say we want to be like God, and we feel we mean it. But we don’t. Not to be harsh, but if we did really mean it, we would be having a lot more fun than we are. We aim for safety and cultural respectability instead of following our stated first principles: that we are made in God’s image and should strive to imitate him.
My friend and pastor, Josh Howerton, preached a very powerful message yesterday. At the heart of it he asked the question, “Is what matters to God the same things that matter to you?” He then walked through what it means to orient your life in a way that has you filter decisions based on that question. It was one of those sermons that felt like God hand crafted it for me.
I strongly encourage everyone to listen to it, “What Matters To God.“
“No one is so good they don’t need God’s grace…and no one is so bad they can’t receive God’s grace.”
I love to read. I go through different spurts on how much I read per month, yearly, etc. Typically, I am able to go through books pretty quickly. I don’t read for entertainment, but to learn. I want to learn, process, think about how to apply and move on to the next book.
Every once in awhile, maybe once a year, I pick up a book that just makes me stop. It is so good that I want to keep going and finish it, but it seems to take me forever. Every time I read it I end up putting it down because it so deeply resonates with my soul and/or ignites my mind in such a way that it takes me 100 times longer to process the book than it does to read the book.
I am in one of those right now. I am around 240 pages in, but I have been in this book since the beginning of the year. (to be fair, I have read 3 other books in this time as well). I cannot encourage pastors enough to go read The Pastor by Eugene Peterson. I love being a pastor, thinking about pastoral ministry, and growing in my understanding of the nature of the pastorate. This book has helped more than any other book.
It is a memoir so it is a little unique. Eugene Peterson isn’t simply teaching on the nature of pastoral identity and calling. He is sharing his story of being a pastor of 40+ years and taking me along with him in his journey.
Pastors, if you want to be encouraged greatly and challenged in a very healthy way you need to pick up this book. Though I am warning you, it will take you longer than you think!