Showing posts from March, 2021

Pervasive Sabbath

I just listened to a podcast on countercultural Christianity. It’s a conversation between pastors working through various topics and how Christians are to act or react in light of Christ’s claim on us. I like it so far. This particular episode was covering Sabbath. It’s a vital piece of life. Rest after work not as an earned reward but as a recognition that we need refreshing and we are not God. I think the church could do far better in advocating for healthy rhythms of life for believers. Sabbath should be subversive, to borrow an adjective from another popular book. But what I have noticed in nearly every contemporary tome on eliminating hurry or carving out rest as the way of Jesus, is an utter lack of familiarity or relationship with the wage earner. Most of the voices calling for an embrace of Sabbath are those of the affluent. Perhaps not everyone is “wealthy” by their own definition but they expose their lack of experiencing the tension of sacrificing hours of work or feeding th

When Convenience Surrenders to Commitment

On Sunday I was talking with another elder and a member of our church about the distance someone is willing to drive to gather with the church. The question came up because there is a church facility for sale in our community and as our church begins to plan for a long term and permanent location some of us were weighing the possibility. I thought perhaps it was too far north given our current gathering location so in conversation with the elder we asked for input from the younger member just building a family. His answer was quick, “We used to drive twice as far to get here.” He was right. A year ago his wife and he bought a house closer to our church but before that they were thirty minutes further away and still made the trip. It struck me that I had been thinking of the convenience of the gathering of the church rather than the commitment our members had to it. This young member had already surrendered his convenience to his commitment and what an example and encouragement that is

It’s Time to Build the House

This week I am preaching on Haggai in our series on the Minor Prophets. We didn’t give any thought of the calendar when we scheduled this series so it is surely of the Holy Spirit that a word about taking up the work of building the house of the Lord comes on the one-year anniversary of the last service before pandemic shutdowns. God’s remnant people had come back from exile with the announced mission to rebuild the Temple. They began the work but face significant opposition and distress. So like any of us facing hardship, they gave up. They stopped the work on the Temple thinking it could never be as beautiful as before. But they did keep laboring, just for themselves building fine houses. Haggai is the word of the Lord calling them to engage again in building His house. They can do it because he promises to be with them and that what he is building is better. It is the thing of greater glory. Haggai is about the new Temple. It is about Jesus and his people being made into the Temple

Three Months of Ministry and More

Haggai is a short prophetic book that packs a punch. In a good way. The Prophet was used by the Lord to stir the people back up to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem in 520 BC. The Lord spoke, the people listened and headed his call. The Temple was rebuilt. It is a story of empowerment and presence, and the promise of something far greater. It is Immanuel experienced and foretold all the same. What strikes me though is that all of this happened in three and a half months. Haggai gives us the days that words came so we can map it with precision. And that is all we know of Haggai. Three months of ministry that the Lord used for so much more. Something seemingly small, with significant ramifications. I wonder how many of us do ministry and commit to the small things without a realization how the Lord uses it. Speaking as a pastor of a small church, we should not despise the time we have, or the reach we have. God will call his people through whomsoever he chooses. It can be the three-month p

Jesus Didn’t Want My Capacity

The last year of pandemic slowness has given plenty of opportunities for contemplation and the plotting of a new course when it comes to ministry. Even so, I was going at a pretty slow pace before the government sanctioned separation. A small church, few demanding people paired with an intentional embrace of the slower things of life left me with a clearer view of what it was Jesus was after when he claimed me for himself. I used to pride myself on my capacity. I could manage a number of important things with ease and I was sure the Lord would tap into my efficiency and ability to further his cause. Working in an influential governmental position and still leading at our local church all while embracing married life gave me some sense that I could handle whatever was thrown at me. Eventually the vocation shifted to pursuing education and ministry but my view of my own capacity still ruled. Of course it was pride having the run of my heart but so much of what I heard among my tribe of C

Where We Go Next

Entering into the week today with a hunger, an expectancy that I haven’t had in a while. Last week a I was studying and preparing to preach on Zephaniah (our church is doing a series on the Minor Prophets) I was struck again by the love of God for his people. It was expected of course as portions of this prophet mean a great deal to our family. But as Sunday approached I had a sense that we were turning the corner on something, that a chapter was beginning. As we gathered yesterday for worship there were many sweet moments. We had the largest attendance since March of 2020, with some returning faces recently vaccinated excited to be at church. Singing worship was rich in participation, which is saying something as we sing outside and there is a bit of shuffling between spaces. And in the preaching I was stirred all the more by the love of God for us. Many pastors will know what I am talking about, but during the sermon at one point I felt a very clear move of God, the Spirit was at wor

Letting the Gospel Work Out Practicalities

Gospel centrality, keeping the good news of Jesus at the center of faith, is vitally important to me. So much so that when I find myself in settings that diminish the gospel in the Christian life (think legalistic, political, or hobby-horse environs) I get itchy. The balm for a number of years for me has been the steady and gospel-drenched writing of Jared C. Wilson. His work has helped me in many ways and the longer in the tooth I become the more I rejoice at the words jumping off the page reminding me of who I am in Christ. But is there more to gospel-centeredness than justification? Can it actually inform life and ministry in practical ways. Wilson’s latest is the articulation of what it means for pastoral ministry to be “Gospel Driven.” This volume follows his Gospel Driven Church which was a creative journey of gospel awakening in an imaginary, but oh too familiar church. He pressed the case for ditching pragmatism and the seeker model and hopefully many were convinced. With Gospe