Thursday, December 29, 2016

Easier to Ask Forgiveness than Ask Permission?

I have sometimes heard people quip, "I just did it because I thought it would be easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission." When someone says this, their hearers usually nod their heads in agreement, perhaps smiling at the thought.

But I want to ask this: is it easier (or better) to ask forgiveness than permission? It may work for quick little decisions that need to be made at work or at home. But what about in areas of life that carry greater consequences?

  • Do we "borrow" (steal) something from our workplace and then hope our boss will be forgiving?
  • Do we fudge some numbers on our taxes and hope the IRS, if they notice, will forgive the "oversight"?
  • Do we push towards intimate activity outside the bounds of marriage and then hope for forgiveness the next day?
  • Do we come home late without first making sure it's okay with those who are affected by this?

Does this philosophy help or hurt our relationship with our boss? Does it build trust or damage trust with our spouse? Is it setting a good example for our children or others who are watching?

Forgiveness is an essential aspect of our lives. We want to be people filled with grace and forgiveness, especially if we are followers of Jesus Christ. As we have been forgiven so much, so we too must be good forgivers (see Matthew 18:21-35). And we want to ask forgiveness from others when we have hurt them in some way.

However, if we presume we will be forgiven and then set out in a direction we know is sinful, is that really the right thing to do? I believe much interpersonal damage has resulted from this line of thought.

Let's not do something we know is wrong and presume people will just forgive and forget. Such actions hurt relationships with people we are closest to. Let's not allow a pithy little saying justify something we will regret later.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Three Little Words that Threaten to Destroy Us

There are three little words that threaten to destroy our lives. You've heard them before. It's likely that you've even said them.

Perhaps you've been out with some friends and they have asked you to do something you knew was wrong, or maybe only a little outside the boundaries. Yet you rationalized it thinking that maybe it was "no big deal."

Perhaps you've been on the internet late at night, and wondered what kinds of pornographic pictures might be accessible for free. Maybe at that time you thought it was "no big deal."

Perhaps you exploded in anger at the kids, or said some demeaning things to your spouse, or spent money you knew you didn't have. At that moment you may have rationalized it as "no big deal."

But was it really "no big deal"? Or did you find out later that it really was worse than you thought at first?

Those three little words can be used to justify the first few steps down a destructive path. Those first steps might initially seem like they aren't really problematic. But they lead us in a direction we don't really want to go. And it doesn't take long for things to get worse.

It might seem like "no big deal" to gamble a hundred dollars. Or fool around with a girlfriend. Or sign up on a dating site even though we're married. Or look at a little porn. Or try marijuana. Or drive home from the bar even when we know we have had too much to drink. But we've all seen the results of those things that at first seemed like "no big deal." Maybe we've even felt the pain of those decisions in our own lives.

Sin IS a big deal. Even a little sin is a big deal. I suspect that you don't really need to be convinced of this - you know it in your heart. If you have the Holy Spirit in you, He has shown you this very clearly.

Let's decide to stand against the idea of "no big deal" before we do the thing. When we hear those words ringing in our minds, let that be a red flag to reexamine our course and change direction. Let's not let those three little words lead us down a path of sin that brings pain to ourselves or others.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why Do We Celebrate the Cross?

Sometimes it may seem strange that Christians celebrate the cross of Jesus Christ. Why would a symbol of torture and death become a fundamental symbol of our faith?

The answer, in part, is that we celebrate because of all God accomplished through the cross of Christ. Here are a few of those accomplishments:
  • Our penalty has been paid: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • Our sins have been forgiven: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7).
  • Satan has been defeated: He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2:5).
  • Death has been conquered: "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
  • We have been redeemed: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
  • Our hearts are now reconciled to God: All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself...(2 Corinthians 5:18).
  • We have been adopted as children of God: For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons...(Romans 8:15).
  • We have the promise of eternal life: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).
God the Father sent Jesus the Son to do what no person could possibly do: redeem sinful people like you and like me. THAT is why we celebrate the cross!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Long Break, and the Joys and Challenges of Adoption

Perhaps you've noticed that my blogs have been a bit quiet lately. For this I do apologize, and hope you'll allow me to explain this long break.

My wife and I have recently adopted an eleven-year-old son, and are working diligently to integrate him into our family that includes three other children. We know the Lord has led us down this path, but the way is filled with joys and challenges.

God doesn't call us to follow the easy path; He calls us to follow the path that He will bless.

We are embracing the joys and challenges, but in order to focus on my family I have stepped back from writing for the last several months. I continue to serve the pastoral role to which the Lord has called me. Now, from this point forward, I plan to resume my semi-regular blogging. My goal remains the same: "Relating biblical truth to everyday life, to draw people closer to Christ."

God's blessings to you. I'll write more soon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The One Thing They Didn't (and Couldn't) Teach Me in Seminary

In seminary I was taught a lot of important things, and I use them every day in life and in ministry. I learned Bible, theology, preaching skills, ministry methods, and so much more. Seminary prepared me for pastoral ministry in countless ways.

However, there was one thing that seminary did not...and could not...teach me. You see, in my role as pastor I have had to do a lot of things that have nothing to do with Sunday morning services, visitation, and other "ministry" duties. Around the building I have cleaned toilets, wiped up vomit, mopped floors, and moved furniture. Out in the community I have spent long hours with people I barely knew, performed difficult funeral services that required hours of preparation, and counseled couples that wouldn't stop fighting even as I tried to interject quiet words of wisdom.

Many times over the years I have quipped, "They didn't teach me THAT in seminary!"

Indeed, that's true. Seminary trains pastors in very important ways, and I would encourage every future pastor to pursue seminary training. But there's the one thing seminary did not...and could not...teach: servanthood.

It's a sense of servanthood that causes me to care about things that are not in good repair in the church building. It's a sense of servanthood that causes me to get up in the middle of the night to be with someone in the emergency room. It's a sense of servanthood that fuels my joy even in the midst of a hard counseling session.

Seminary cannot teach servanthood because it's not something that can be learned in a classroom. We learn it as we grow in Christ and live for Him daily.

Servanthood is an attitude that every Christian should have. Jesus talked to His disciples about servanthood: "But Jesus called them to Him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many'" (Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus modeled this kind of humility as He washed the feet of His disciples, and then told them to follow His example (see John 13:1-15, esp. v. 14-15). That is Jesus's model, and therefore it is my goal as His follower. Even more as a pastor, I want to live this life of servanthood.

Sadly, I have seen a few pastors who have lost their sense of servanthood. Quite frankly, it's easy to do. It's hard to maintain an attitude of God-honoring service. Servanthood can be inconvenient to my schedule and inconsiderate of my personal needs. But as a pastor, I especially want to serve even when it's hard. I cannot consider it beneath myself to do something grungy around the building. I cannot consider myself to be entitled to receive special gifts from church members. I want to be willing to set aside my study time to talk with someone who drops by to discuss a hardship they're facing. I want to be open to visit someone in the hospital even if it's my "day off." Yes, most people in the church never see these quiet hours of service, but our Lord does, and when we serve people in His name we are truly serving Him (see Matthew 25:40).

Fellow pastor, what about you and me? How's our sense of servanthood today? For that matter, I ask the same question to all my fellow Christian brothers and sisters: how are we doing in serving people today?