The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Problem with Looking Up

WE’RE TOLD TO KEEP LOOKING UP. Well I have discovered a time when that adage is nigh impossible, or at least very dangerous. It’s when you’re running on a treadmill. When you’re moving along at a good speed on a treadmill you need to keep your eyes focused forward, or even downward, but turn your gaze to the side for any length of time, or heaven forbid you look up, and you’re a goner. Believe me, I know! Praise the Lord for safety bars!

The reality of running on a mechanical treadmill also holds true to running on the treadmill of life. You need to keep your eyes focused. Get distracted by what’s going on around you, let up for just a short moment, and you’ll find yourself flying out of control. This unrelenting reality of the treadmill poses a problem for those who would like to take some time and look up. For those who feel the call and the need to take a moment or two to gaze heavenward the treadmill of life can make that incredibly difficult, if not dangerous.

I suppose this is why God calls us to a Sabbath’s rest. A specific time of getting off the treadmill so that we can safely, and peacefully look up toward the God of heaven. Sadly, for many of us, we try to practice the discipline of Sabbath-Treadmilling. The result being…well, let’s just say it’s not a pretty sight. The Sabbath, as God created it, was to be a time of stopping, of getting off the treadmill, and resting in the presence and the care of a Lord who loves us. Not a bad idea, really. If you desire to know more about cultivating a Sabbath heart, check out Rick Tozer’s new Sunday morning class, I am sure he’ll point you in the right direction.

So, my treadmill friend, hit the off button, step off the contraption, and take the rest you need. You’ll be glad you did.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Proximity

IT NEVER FAILS. One of my children say something or do something that is worthy of me knocking them into tomorrow, and when I ask them where they came up with that, the cock their heads, give me a funny twinkled-eyed look and say, “Why we learned it from you, Dad.” Yikes! I guess the old adage, “The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree,” still holds true.

Living in proximity has its pluses and minuses. There is that other old saying about things being learned come from being caught rather than taught. Hang around a person long enough and you’ll be talking and acting just like them. Scary thought when we consider the people who hang around us, especially our children!

Yet, there is a positive side to all of this proximity. If you want to be like someone the key is spending time with them. To learn a language quickly immerse yourself in the culture. To learn a new skill or trade, spend time with a master craftsman. Keep your ears and ears open and before you know it their language will become yours. Their skill, your skill.

The same is true in becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The Bible says we were made in God’s image, and now are called have that image re-formed in us. But how? Proximity. Get close to the Master. Keep your eyes and ears open. See what He does and do likewise.

What a great day it will be when our Heavenly Father says to us, “Hey, where did you learn to do that? To which we will reply, “From You Father, from You! It all comes from getting close.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Some Missional Musing

I have just finished reading and contemplating Stephan Seamand's book, "Ministry in the Image of God." It has taken me almost a year to complete, not because it's a difficult to read book or that I am a slow reader, it's that it is one of those books that needs to be laid down every so often and then picked up again.

The final chapter in the book, Passionate Mission: the Impulse of Trinitarian Ministry, has challenged me in regards to how I pray, and how I move toward the ministry/mission to which the Lord may be calling me.

Two key thoughts grabbed me. First, that my motive for ministry cannot be the "need of others," but rather my love for God and through that my love for others. God's ministry toward us whether our daily bread or our eternal state, is first and foremost motivated by His love for us, not by our basic and eternal need.

Second, mission is to be motivated by the Holy Spirit. The disciples were called to wait for the Spirit to move. So they waited and prayed and the Holy Spirit called them out to begin the command that Jesus had left with them, which was to go and make disciples of all nations. The going began with waiting. The waiting consisted of a open and clear agenda. That is the disciples were not even sure what they were waiting for, they just waited.

As I contemplated Seamand's writing I wrote down these thoughts, and I share them here to maybe garner some thoughts from others.

On the back pages of the book I wrote,
"Too often we seek the Holy Spirit to get a blessing on our "going out into ministry." We devote ourselves to prayer to get His blessing or even to receive some specific direction. But is there more? Is there a different approach for us?
To devote ourselves to wait before the Lord -- to prayerfully worship and glorify Him and to wait until the Holy Spirit responds and does in fact fill us for ministry and the mission. Maybe the reason we do not see very many Pentecost-type events today id because we seek for our predetermined ideas and ministry/mission goals. Maybe we don't wait long enough, prayerfully enough, before the Lord.
Jesus told His disciples to "go" but first He told them to "wait." They had no idea of what His command to "go" really meant, other than it somehow involved living the comforts of the community of believers and spreading out to the known and unfamiliar and uncomfortable world. (Acts 1:8) They needed more information. I think we might have too much information (plans and ideas included) and thus, we really don't need to wait very long for the Holy Spirit. Our prayer is to seek the Holy Spirit's blessing, rather than to just seek the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Ah, waiting, how truly economically un-American. We don't know how to wait -- heck, that's what credit cards are for, right? Waiting and the sabbath it entails is not allowed in our culture; a culture that has sadly so throughly infiltrated the church.

So, there are my musings, which of course pose some needed changes in my own ministry. The crisis of Sabbath is brought in bold relief by the pressure of the moment, the tyranny of the urgent and the crisis of consumption. We are forced to move way to fast. Ministry must move. There is no time to wait -- therein lies the problem.

I have written a new bumper sticker:

"We are Moving So Fast the Future Was Yesterday"

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

LOST!

I LOST MY CAR KEYS, or at least placed them where I couldn’t find them. I looked for almost an hour, enlisted the help of my wife and kids, and checked each place where I thought they could be at least three times. All to no avail. The good news is I did find them in the last place I looked. Where? In the ignition of my car. Right where I left them. Stop snickering, I can hear you!

As I finally got to go off for a Monday morning run I dwelt upon the key hunt of the previous hour. I had looked in the car, but my searching took me only as far as the seat and floor and the ground around the car. I never thought to look right where I was hoping to insert them in the first place! The lessoned I learned (once again) was when looking for something go back to the last place you know they were for sure, and that place for my keys would of course be the ignition.

Throughout the course of my life I have lost any number of things, (wallets, TV remotes, my mind) but the most worrisome is when I feel I have lost my relationship with the Lord. During those times I found little solace from bumper-sticker theology like, “Feel far from God? Guessed who moved?”

What I have found to help is to return to the last place where I was walking close to the Lord. Like returning to the ignition to discover my keys dangling and waiting to be turned. In truth, that’s the place I guess they should always be, but that’s another sermon. Suffice it to say, the key (pun intended) to restoration of my relationship is to return to where it was working last. I suppose that is what the Lord had in mind when He told the church at Ephesus to “Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5) To return to our love for the Lord means just that, to return to first things. A lesson well-learned.