Monday, January 28, 2008


I thought long and hard before I got my vanity plate - PASTR D. Did I want people to know that I am a pastor? Do I need to be more careful and courteous on the road? Do I need to be more cautious about obeying the speed limits? Do I need to control my temper and watch how I respond to other people's poor driving? I think I do!

Anonymity is a dangerous thing. Individuals who are part of a rioting mob will do things they would never do on their own. Kids veiled by the dark of night will vandalize property and spray obscene graffiti on walls. People driving their cars are likely to make angry faces, sarcastic remarks or nasty gestures at people in other cars - as long as they feel anonymous.

The Bible says, " loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil." (John 3:19)

Anonymity is one of the reasons telemarketers can be so annoying - you will never meet them and wouldn't know them if you did.

Anonymity is one of the dangers of the internet. People view explicit materials or engage in suggestive communications over the internet because they feel safe in anonymity.

Anonymity may make people feel free to misbehave because they think they cannot be brought to account. If you are anonymous, who will call you down about your bad behavior? (Maybe that is why it bothers people so much to think that the government might listen in on their phone conversations - but what are they talking about?)

Anonymity is dangerous because it encourages people to act on their base impulses. They think that they will not be singled out and punished, but anonymity is only an illusion. God is not confused by crowds or blinded by darkness. He knows us as individuals and He knows both our deeds and our thoughts. We would do well to always remember that - especially when we start to feel anonymous.
(Mark 4:22-23) For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.
23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Profundity - "deep insight; great depth of knowledge or thought"

I haven't blogged in a while - I have been waiting for something profound to say, but decided to give it up. If I ever knew anything that was profound, I must have forgotten it. It has been a good week, however.

This Sunday we are having an installation service in the afternoon. Because of that, we have Dave Warren speaking in the morning. That means I don't get to preach, but at least I get to listen to a fine preacher. Since I didn't have sermons to prepare I was more free (though not completely free) to put more time into finishing the work upstairs in the parsonage.

I am happy to report good progress. The ceilings and walls are all painted. (There are some places that need touch-ups.) Today Lola and I cleaned the floors and started trimming them. Hopefully we will be able to get the floors painted and ready for traffic (read "moving in") by the end of next week. Praise the Lord! Moving upstairs means we can unpack our many boxes, and put our clothes in dressers and closets and feel a little bit more settled.

Another exciting event this week was when the furnace broke on Friday. It wouldn't have been so interesting if it hadn't been 3 degrees outside at the time. It cooled off in the house pretty quickly and the furnace repair guys had a few problems. As a result, we didn't have heat from 5:30 AM to 5:30 PM. The house didn't get back to normal temperatures until almost 11:00.

God has been kind to us. We survived. We avoided the illnesses that have affected so many recently. We got a lot of work done. We enjoyed the privilege of ministry in God's service. What more could anybody want?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Musings on Contentment and Stuff

I've been reminded recently that the greatest treasure is contentment.

Someone who has everything the modern world has to offer, but without contentment, is as wretched as the poorest beggar in the gutter of the poorest city in the world. If a person has property and houses and cars and gadgets and tools, but is plagued by discontent, he is to be pitied.

Of course we tend to think that people who have more than we do should be content - but that we can be discontent because we have less than they do. This is pure rationalization. Lack of contentment is the problem - not the lack of things.

Nothing in this world can ever bring contentment because our life here is temporary. Everything we have is perishable and will perish as we use it. When we die we will leave all of the stuff behind - without so much as a receipt to show for it. What we consume for the pleasure of the sensation is gone and the sensation lasts for only a few moments before it is gone too.

So, what's the answer? Nihilistic despair? Epicurean abandon? An existential leap of faith?

We need something that transcends our earthly life. We need a purpose that goes beyond the accumulation of stuff and makes sense of our mortality.

Our need is met by our Creator - the infinite, eternal, self-existent God. In knowing Him through His revelation of Himself, and in joining Him in the pursuit of His glory, we find a purpose that gives us perspective. Mortality is no longer a barrier because we have found the secret of eternal life that is continuous, conscious and corporeal.

The stuff this world offers cannot be our goal - it can only be a means to achieve our goal of bringing glory to God. When God's glory is our goal, we can have contentment because our situation is always adequate for the purpose. If we have enough, we praise God! If we need more, we depend on God! If we have more than enough, we share it in the name of God!

(1Tim 6:6-10) ¶ Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I'm Gumpa!

This just in from my daughter...

We are listening to Dad's sermon. Emma shrieked, "Gumpa!!!! It's Gumpa! Dats duh Gumpa I wuv!" I said, "Yes, I know" and she repeated, "Yes, I know---duh Gumpa I wuv!"

How cute! Thought you'd like to hear that!

Isn't that GREAT? I'm duh Gumpa she wuvs! That made my day!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Church Competition?

Have you noticed that there are many churches out there? It is intimidating! Especially those really BIG churches.

I admit that it is hard to subdue my competitive feelings about other churches. There is a dark corner of my heart where I think that my church is the best - the one true church - the one place where the doctrine is pure and the practice is biblical. Of course that means that any church that is not this church is in some way deficient. All true believers should come join my flock for the glory of God!

I try to keep such feelings in check by keeping a few important facts in view.

The first fact is that I don't have a church to call my own. I am simply a follower of Jesus Christ and the only true church is HIS church. The local church I pastor is not mine, but His. He equips His servants as He sees fit and assigns them to the local flock as He knows best. I am responsible to Him for the care I give the sheep that He assigned to me. (1Peter 5:2-4; Hebrews 13:17) I have plenty of legitimate pursuits to occupy my time - rustling sheep from other flocks is not one of them.

The second fact is that God loves diversity. Take a look at His creation and this is immediately obvious. How many types of biomes, plants, animals, etc. are there? Are any two people exactly alike? It is, therefore, no surprise to find that churches are diverse even when they share the same basic doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. There are diverse personalities, histories, and cultures that contribute to people's choices of diverse local churches.

The third fact is that God has not yet perfected us. (James 3:2; 1John 3:2) As a result, there is such a thing as "disputes over doubtful things." (Romans 14) Some people have scruples about one thing and other people don't see it that way. According to Scripture we shouldn't look down on people who see things like that differently than we do - rather we are to be sensitive to their feelings and do what we believe is right in the sight of the Lord. "Whatever is not from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23)

The fourth fact is that church growth isn't even a good goal unless it comes from the conversion of new Christians. If "growth" comes by siphoning Christians from some other local church, then it is really only redistribution. Sometimes people visit my church because of some interpersonal conflict in their home church. It is my practice to try to help them reconcile to their previous church and pastor. People should not be hopping from church to church, especially if it is just because they can't get along with other people. Sometimes people SHOULD change churches, but the threshold for that decision should involve significant matters of theological conviction - rather than the prevalent wanderlust of modern consumer culture.

I am CERTAINLY NOT endorsing every group that calls itself a church - not by a long shot. All "churches" are more or less "religious," but many don't preach the Bible and don't teach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. No genuine follower of Jesus Christ has any business in a place like that. People in such "churches" need to be evangelized.

Some churches are a kind of Christian food court. They find the most minimal basis for agreement and are careful not to talk about anything that "Christians" might disagree about. Everyone comes together and has a great religious time in a nominally Christian way without ever getting much deeper into the Bible than the idea that there is a God. These are like the home on the range, "where never is heard a discouraging word and the sky is not cloudy all day." (Howdy Doody 3:16)

Can you tell I don't think that genuine Christians should play these market driven games? The people who do this dishonor God and neglect His Word. In contrast, the Bible says that pastor/teachers are given to the church to equip them for ministry so that they grow up in the truth and are "no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine..." (Ephesians 4:11-16) People in such settings need to be discipled into mature Christian discernment so they can "...test the spirits - whether they are of God" or not. (1John 4:1) There are, after all, "many false prophets."

Our loyalty is not to everyone who uses the title "Christian" much less everyone who is "religious." Our loyalty is to Christ Himself. As followers of Christ we need to submit to His word, obey as best we can, be careful about compromise, and do our best to bring others to Him for salvation. We look to the Master and not at what He has given others to do.

IN CONCLUSION: The other churches are not "the competition." Being the church isn't competitive... it is a matter of simple obedience to Jesus Christ. We who serve Jesus labor at planting and watering - but we wait on Him to give the increase when, how, and where He chooses. (1Corinthians 3) How can we help but cheer for every soul brought from death to life?