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.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Free Lunch?!

Well, not really a free lunch, we know there's no such thing, but how about a free music CD.

The whole enchilada, not just one song!

This sister in Christ can really sing, I think you'll enjoy her ministry.

Hey give it a try...it's free!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Scary Places

BASES LOADED, THREE MEN ON, THREE BALLS, NO STRIKES. That’s a scary place for a pitcher to be. First date, under the porch light, saying goodnight, a first kiss? That’s a scary place for a young man to be. Essay question on the whiteboard, college-ruled paper on the desk, five-minutes to go, memory has gone blank. That’s a scary place for a student to be. Article due yesterday for the Church Chatter, computer screen stares at me like some death-touched eye, not a creative thought in my mind. A scary place for a pastor to be.
There are many places or events that can cause fear to rise in our hearts. Some of them more dangerous than others. And of course, what may cause dread in one person, rolls off another like water on a duck’s back. But, if we were truly honest, we all have scary places.
One such place for many is wrapped up in the words of the Apostle Peter, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) Call it what you may; “witnessing,” “sharing your faith,” “giving your testimony,” whatever we name it, it has a way of causing fear in many a heart.
But why?
I don’t pretend to know all the answers to “why,” but I suppose part of the dread comes from a bad experience from the past. A time that we tried to “share our faith,” only to have the person walk away in a huff. Or maybe, there was a time that some tried to “jam it down your throat” and you determined never to do that to anyone else. Maybe you feel ill-prepared, or even that you really don’t care to share at all. Whatever the reason, when we read the words of the Apostle, or when they are preached at us (like now), our hearts can quickly move to that “scary place.”
I really don’t think that is what the Lord desires for us.
Being ready to give an answer is not about having some doctrinal thesis ready to share, rather it means that we as we walk the walk of following Jesus, we are ready to answer the simple questions that people ask of us when they see the reality of Jesus in our lives. It’s not about explaining it in the theological details, but simply to point to Jesus. One of the best examples of how this is done is taken from the life of one that Jesus radically healed. A man born blind. When the healed man was questioned about Jesus the man simple reply was, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!(John 9:25)
I cannot answer all the questions that people possess about Jesus, but I can give the truth about the hope that Jesus has given me. I can declare this simple truth, “I was blind, but now I see.” I was once in the scary place, but Jesus has set me free.
And look, the blank page is filled!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reunions


REUNIONS CAN BE TRYING EVENTS. They are often seen as events which mark the passage of time. A time to see the effects of time on those friends we once deemed ageless, much like ourselves. At reunions we face the frailty of our own lives. At reunions we weigh the success and failures of others. Whether we like it or not, reunions often become time of facing the judgment seat.

But it ought not to be that way.

This past weekend I have enjoyed many reunions. The reunion brought by Krista returning home from two and half years in Africa. Not a testing of age, or the judging of successes, just the sweetness of a family reunited. The reunion of friends from my youth, Don and Mark. No worries of the aging process, just fond, and often hilarious, memories of lives shared. The reunion of friends which was instituted by the retirement party of one of my key spiritual fathers, Ken Harrower. And of course, that reunion which takes place each week as the family of Felton Bible Church gathers to worship, pray, learn, laugh, and cry.

Yes, reunions can also be good things. They remind us of a greater reunion that will take place one day. A reunion of which the Apostle Paul writes, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

There is another reunion coming. Ageless. True. Without judgment. Do you have your invitation?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep


MY FIRST PORTION of memorized Scripture came at an age when I did not even realize that I was quoting the Bible. Sometimes I knelt at my bedside, sometimes I was laying under the covers, but all the time my mom was there, making sure I said it correctly and covered all the bases. Of course I learned it in the ancient language of King James Bible (circa 1611).

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power
and the glory, forever. Amen.

I wasn’t too sure what “hallowed” meant, or who those people were that were trespassing on our property, but all that aside, it has been a prayer that has served me well.
It was not until years later that I saw this prayer within the context that Jesus taught it, and it was years after that I began to understand the deep implications of its words. Now, even today, I wrestle with this rather simple, unadulterated prayer which the Lord Jesus taught His followers. I struggle with the consequences of a Kingdom that comes and a will that is done. I am humbled by the amount of bread I have blessed to consume and the trespasses I have been forgiven. And I am challenged by the trespasses to forgive and the temptations to fight.
Yet, I am thankful for a Christ-given prayer that reminds me that I have a Father who hears. And so, whether on my knees, or wrapped in my covers, or strolling down a redwood shaded path, I still am given to pray, ”Our Father…”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympic Spirit

BACK STORY, it is the part of the television coverage of the Olympics that grabs us maybe even than the spectacular finishes -- those stories of Herculean effort that surround so many of the Olympic participants. The stories of troubled childhoods and tragic mishaps that give way to glorious over-comings which then produce the individuals we watch performing on our televisions. It’s not the event, but the journey, that makes the Olympic story so Olympic.

One of the signature events of the Olympics is the marathon and the ancient event which started it all was a battle caused journey. Phidippides, a member of the Greek army who were in battle against the Persians around 500 BC, was called upon to run to Athens (26 miles away) to carry the news of the victory over the Persians and the warning about the approaching Persian ships. And this 26 miles was preceded by his running b etween Athens and Sparta, about 280 miles round trip, just day before. Oh yes, the battle was fought on the plains of Marathon. See, the back story always adds to the event.

This year’s Olympics will no doubt be filled with many such stories. They will bring tears to our eyes, hope to our hearts, and most likely cheers to our lips. The story drives the event.

The Apostle Paul had an incredible “back story.” Of good training, schooling, prestige, but also of darkness, hatred, doubts. The Apostle used his story not as an excuse or hindrance, but as an opportunity to show forth God’s mercy and grace. Yet, Paul knew that his past was just that, his past. His eyes were always firmly set on the prize. As he wrote to the Philippians, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (3:13-14)

May our stories push us on. May we run to win.