2-4-6-8-who do we appreciate?

January is National mentoring month

April is Jazz appreciation month

May used to be National Guide Dog month until 2010 when they inexplicably moved it to September which, nobody saw coming.

And there are others.  This month, I learned, is Pastor’s Wife appreciation month.

pastors-wife-month-blog

image borrowed from Crossway.org

I’m not sure if this is a rant or a constructive thought, but here it is.

A pastor’s wife needs to be appreciated, as does an accountant’s wife, a butcher’s wife, a dentist’s wife… you get the picture.  Every member of the local congregation needs to be appreciated and not taken for granted especially those who work behind the scenes and make the public folks look better than they really are (1 Corinthians 12:22-26).

Something about a month of “appreciating” the pastor’s wife communicates to me that it’s an area we aren’t very good at.  Sort of like a hospitality committee (you know, because we stink at just being hospitable so we need a committee to organize and announce how hospitable we are).

But beyond that, when is the last time, ladies, you wanted to be identified by what your husband does for a living?  I’ve not yet heard of someone introducing herself by telling what her husband does for a living and that explaining everything you need to know about her.  And while on that subject, I also haven’t asked a mechanic’s wife what she thought the smell was coming from my engine compartment or an engineer’s wife to design a flux capacitor for me.

(incidentally, this is not intended to be a sexist rant.  I am aware that there are female mechanics and engineers.  In that case I wouldn’t ask the husband of an engineer to design me a flux capacitor (unless of course the husband AND wife were engineers or maybe an engineer and a chemist (I’m looking at you Jack and Paige), then I’d have the baddest time traveling DeLorean in the neighborhood!)).

And yet, just as each of us has a unique calling and need for grace, so to the Pastor’s wife.  Not more grace, not some special seat (or parking space) but grace uniquely fit to each of person to match their gifts and needs in their desire to live out the gospel where God has put them.

Pastor-Wife-Parking-Sign-K-4490

I know one woman who told her ridiculously good-looking boyfriend that the one thing she did not want to be was a pastor’s wife.  Ten years later they were heading into seminary and down that rabbit hole.

I know a pastor who was told by an elder in his church that his wife wasn’t qualified to teach… Sunday School… to three-year-olds!

I know another pastor’s wife who worked full-time the entire time her husband was a pastor and the church complained about how unavailable she was.

Shy pastor’s wives are criticized for not being more involved.  Outspoken pastor’s wives are accused of abusing their position.

Consider: a pastor’s wife does not get to leave the church when “things just aren’t going well,” or she just “isn’t feeling connected,” or there just isn’t enough for her kids.

Most pastor’s wives outlive their husbands, which adds injury to insult.  Let’s face it, most pastors’ idea of a retirement plan is, “preach till I die.”  And most churches can’t afford much more than a “be warm and well-fed” model themselves.

While other members of the church may know, theoretically, that their pastor is a sinner, the pastor’s wife experiences daily that her pastor is a sinner in as much need of the grace he is preaching as anyone.

Pastor’s wives are people—sinners saved by grace alone.  They have gifts, just like other members, but that does not mean necessarily gifts just like their husbands.  Some are gifted teachers and communicators.  Some are terrified of public speaking.  Some are gifted counselors.  Some are not.  Some have the gift of hospitality.  Some do not.  I haven’t met every pastor’s wife nor even most, but I can draw some conclusions from the ones I’ve met.  ALL of them need friends.

But what does that look like for the woman who happens to be married to the pastor?  Ladies in the church, do not assume that your pastor’s wife is cold or uninterested in friendship with you.  She is navigating what feels like treacherous waters.

Does she have confidants in the church where her husband, let’s face it, makes his living?  “I feel like my husband has time for everyone but me.”  That’s your pastor she’s talking about.  “Please pray for my marriage.”  That’s your pastor’s marriage she’s talking about.  “We haven’t had a raise in five years, and I my husband’s considering another change, but I don’t know if kids or I can take another move.”  That’s your pastor and your church she’s talking about.

This pastor’s wife (not “this pastor’s wife,” this pastor – me – his wife – my wife.  Confused yet?  Anyway)—this pastor’s wife, in the years after she became that which she swore she could never be, has come face to face with the many fears she had in expressing her resolve never to be one.  Some of those challenges have come from cruel people, but some have come from well-meaning friends and some have come from facing her own idols and need for Christ’s forgiveness and grace.

This pastor’s wife has also sat in his office with him and prayed through tears for the precious church God has called them to; she has spent hundreds and thousands of hours caring for and serving their church; she has poured herself out in prayer for the church and their sinner-of-a-pastor; she would give anything for the children and teens of the church and the community and can often be found at a middle school or high school volunteering or subbing.

So, yes, appreciate the wife of your pastor.  She is seeking to do that which God has called her to do – to love her husband, raise her children, love Christ’s bride and love the lost.  If it takes a special month to bring her to your mind then start this month.  Show her the grace and patience you desire and need from others.  Bear with her and love her like any other member of your awesome church.

Then, I don’t know, go crazy, appreciate her in June too.

pastors wife tramp stamp

Hope for Hump Day, May 7

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

So begins the Heidelberg Catechism. The answer tells me that my only comfort is that I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

Is that true? I mean, do I live my life as if that is true? Do you live every day, every week, as though the one thing that makes life worth living and death worth facing is that you belong to Jesus Christ the Son of God and Savior of sinners?

Jesus says in John 11.25:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though he die, yet shall he live.

But do we really believe this? Actually that was Jesus’ follow up question (John 11.26). Do we believe that everything this world tells us will give us life and satisfaction actually overwhelms our lives and eventually amounts to nothing?

I was in a meeting recently with some other community leaders. We were discussing ways to serve our greater community with opportunities to come together and enjoy family and friends. We were discussing parades, arts festivals for children, historical celebrations for our community, and other similar events and venues. The discussion turned to the most effective day of the week to hold these activities. One man pointed out that Saturdays were hard because of baseball and softball and soccer and other children sports events. Someone else pointed out that Sundays would eliminate or at least greatly inhibit the involvement of local churches in promoting, supporting, and taking part in these community events. One of the attendees quipped, “People are more willing to skip church than their kid’s sporting events.” Everyone laughed.

And there it is.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That my children have been given all the opportunities that their friends have been given to shine like the superstars they are.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I make enough money to fill my two-car garage and my basement with more stuff than I my kids can use in a year.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am my own. My kids are my own. And I am in control. No one is going to hurt my children or control my children or tell my children what to do except me. I am the captain of my own ship and of my children’s destination.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That My kids are smarter than yours, richer than yours, prettier than yours, better than yours.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” -Mark 8.34-36

Are we teaching our children this truth? Do we even believe it ourselves? Do we believe that the God who breathed his own breath into us, shed his own blood for us, poured his own Spirit into us has every right to our devotion and love?

What are we teaching our children about the value of worship? I fear that mostly we are teaching them that worshiping God is mostly a “if there’s nothing better to do” activity. If we don’t have a game or there isn’t a game on tv or we aren’t on vacation or we aren’t getting ready for vacation or we haven’t just returned from vacation or we haven’t had a hard week or we don’t need to mow the lawn or drywall the basement or go to brunch or just have some ‘me’ time THEN we will worship God because we love Jesus and want to show him.

Are we helping our children learn to deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow Jesus, or are we giving them a false god who would never change or even deny their dreams?

Are we teaching our children that there is nothing in their lives that gives them more comfort, more value, more hope than belonging to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, or are we teaching our children that there is nothing in their lives that gives them more value, more comfort, more hope than their performance, their abilities, their sports activities, their recreation?

What would the impact be on our homes, our hearts, even our relationships in our communities if we began teaching and living out with our children that there is nothing more important in the week than gathering with God’s people to worship God and enjoy a rest together? What would have to change in our calendars, in our homes, in our hearts for that to become a reality?

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” -Augustine of Hippo, 354-430.

Enjoy the Journey

Daddy, Fix It

I used this illustration in a talk I gave last Sunday evening and was asked to share it here for others.

Jesus encourages us to receive the Kingdom of God like children (Luke 18.17).  What does that mean?  What does it look like?  How are we to approach our heavenly father like little children?

 

When my son turned three years old I bought him a radio controlled, “Crocodile Hunter” Jeep.  Admittedly, this gift entertained his father as much as it entertained him, but that is not the point.

Before wrapping his present I went ahead and charged the batteries so that it would be ready to go right out of the box.  That afternoon, we took the jeep out to the driveway and had a blast – a very short-lived blast.  I was not aware that as the battery in the car lost its charge, the ability to maintain control over the vehicle would also decrease.  I was maneuvering the jeep down the driveway (that had a downward slope to the street) when I no longer had control of the vehicle.  It was lined up perfectly to roll straight into the street — at the exact time that a full-sized vehicle was coming down the road.

I could not have timed it better if I wanted to.  The small Jeep rolled under the car perfectly lined up with the rear tire.  The driver never knew what that bump was and never stopped.  The Jeep was completely smashed.  We hadn’t even had the toy for two hours and it was toast.

I was devastated, but my young son seemed unaffected.  He walked straight out to the mangled wreck, scooped it up in his little arms, walked back up the driveway to me, looked up and said, “Daddy, fix it.”

My son was absolutely convinced that I could fix it.  Perhaps one of the saddest (yet most necessary) days in the relationship between a dad and his child is the day a your child realizes that you can’t do everything.

 

Many things in our lives feel broken, crushed, mangled because of foolishness on our part or drive-by negligence in the world.  You have a heavenly Father who loves you so deeply that he organized history itself to move toward one particular moment in time in which He sent His one and only Son to die for your sin, to “fix it.”

You can come to your Father and hold up the mess you have made and say simply, “Daddy, fix it.”  He immediately forgives and accepts you; He begins at once restoring and redeeming you, changing your heart to desire Him more and more, helping you to turn away form your own self-destructive desires.  He begins to give you eyes to see the pain of others so that you might be a source of hope and encouragement for them, keeping them from running headlong into the street.

As a chid of God you will never have to come to a day when you realize that He cannot fix everything.  Your heavenly Father watches over you to such a degree that not a hair can fall from your head without His will (Luke 12.7); in fact He causes all things to work together for your salvation (Romans 8.28).

Have you trusted God with the mangled mess of your life?  You can.  He is good and loving; gracious and kind.  He can fix it.

A Secret Decoder Ring for Your Best Life Now – Hope for Hump Day with a View toward Sunday

This week at Hope of Christ, we will continue to look at the last chapter of Philippians.  Specifically verses 10-13:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me

Everyone loves secrets and mysteries.  Whether you’re Colonel Sanders with your 11 secret herbs and spices, or Coca Cola with your secret recipe for Coke, New Coke, Coke Classic (which was the new, new Coke, making the old new coke, the new old coke), or Coke Zero (which is the new, new, new Coke based on the old New Coke which, again, is the new old coke, recipe).

Even Paul loves mysteries.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. -Romans 16.25-27

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. -Ephesians 3:1-6

Even authors today delight in claiming that they have found the secret to life’s mysteries.  It’s what sells.  Write a book claiming that you’ve tried a few things; they worked for you; they may or may not work for others.  See how many copies you sell.  But announce to the world that you have figured out “the secret.”  and watch those royalty checks roll in.  But the secret has to be exciting.  It has to be something that I can do by focussing more on me. In fact, If you could spend about 200 pages telling me that the secret to my happiness is just a little more selfishness and self-will and self-love and self-promotion and self-esteem, I won’t even mind (or notice the hypocrisy) of a couple pages claiming I should think about others too.

We love secrets.  As long as they’re not too secret.  We like secrets that are decodable.

And Paul says he has figured out the secret.  He has figured out the secret to living your best life now.  And it seems to be a slightly different take than others who write books focussing on that very idea.  Whereas one author tells you that the secret to your best life now is, “don’t ever get satisfied with where you are,” Paul has found that the secret is actually the opposite of that advice.  The secret is…

well, some secrets are better revealed Sunday mornings.  But I promise one thing.  It won’t be a crummy commercial.

Peace We Don’t Get: Hope for Hump Day with a View to Sunday

This Sunday we will be looking at what is possibly one of the better known passages in the Bible on peace.

 

Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

It seems to me that as Christians we have an odd relationship with peace.  We have turned a gift from God into a rule we are failing at.  “You don’t have peace? Oh, well, you’re supposed to have peace.  What are you worried about?  What are you anxious about?  Stop it.  Peace! Be still!”

I wonder if a lot of our lack of peace comes from our lack of peace.  Do you worry about how much you worry?  Does your anxiety make you anxious?  “Why am I so worried about this?  I’m really screwing this up.”

This passage mentions the peace of God (verse 6) and the God of peace (verse 9).  These are not the same thing.  They are related, but they are not the same.  You can have peace with God only because he is a God of peace.  God created you to be a recipient of his love and therefore to live at peace with him.

So what robs us of our peace?  We have believed some lie the world, our flesh, or the devil has sold us.

Maybe you have believed that joy comes from happiness.  That’s a lie. I know many apparently happy people who have no joy in their lives.  Likewise I’ve known many joyful people who have gone through very unhappy circumstances.

Maybe you have been directed by all the little white lies your own thoughts tells you instead of directing your thoughts.  Is it time to stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself?

Maybe you have allowed the accuser more hearing than he deserves.  The number one robber of peace in our lives is shame.  Shame is always only a tool of the accuser.  God is not a God of shame but the God of peace.  Do you know the God of peace?  Does his peace with you surpass even your own comprehension?

Come this Sunday to Hope of Christ Church to meet this God of Peace for the first time or become reacquainted with him.  Learn how to deal with the shame that is falsely used against you.  Learn what it means to pursue joy over happiness.  Learn what it is to know and be known by the God of peace.

New Year’s Resignations

Well, it’s January 8 and you know what that means? Yes it means it’s Hump Day again, but more than that, statistically speaking it means most of us who made any sort of New Year’s resolutions have already failed at most of them. And some who haven’t failed are already finding sticking to their resolution to be a struggle and frustrating and you are questioning why you are even bothering.

Maybe you resolved to make healthier choices with food or drink. You resolved that what you eat and what you drink will not be your source of comfort and joy this year. You will show self control. You won’t become one of those self-righteous sticks in the mud who can’t enjoy a good meal or dessert or beer or glass of wine, but you will enjoy them as gifts from God, not as lifelines.

But then there’s the invitation to a friends house and you don’t want to be rude. And there are all those cookies and candy and you don’t want to be wasteful so they HAVE to be eaten so that you can get them out of the house and start your resolution in earnest. And now you’re feeling like your resolution is pretty much a failure.

Or maybe you resolved to have a little more unconditional love in your heart. Maybe toward your wife or maybe toward your children. A little more patience, a little more compassion, a little more empathy and listening and less talking and correcting and screaming and ignoring. The problem is that conditions aren’t always that optimal for unconditional love. Sometimes it’s too early in the morning for this conversation again. Sometimes it’s too late in the evening to listen to them. Sometimes they are acting like CHILDREN. Sometimes he is so frustrating. Sometimes she is so cold. And you fall and you fail and your resolution didn’t get you anything except, if you told your family what it was, a dirty look or critical comment.

You tried. You meant well. you fell flat. Now what?

For half of us, we will resolve more better. Dig in your heals. Do better. Try harder. Take that hill. Move that barge. You thought you were resolved, but you ain’t seen nothin yet. Grab those boot straps and get up!

For half of us we will resign. You tried, you failed, but who could possibly succeed surrounded by these sinners? You don’t know my wife. You don’t know my husband. You don’t know my children. You don’t know my circumstances.

Or, worse, you realize you failed and it is entirely your own doing. You resolved. You were earnest. You were sincere. You wanted to do good, but the more you wanted to do better the more there was something there pulling you back down, tripping you up, tempting you to give up or give in.

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand (No, not in your spouse or your children or your pantry, but right there in your own heart). For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin.” Romans 7.21-23.

“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Romans 7.19.

What is there for resolvers and resigned alike? What hope do you have if you couldn’t even make it through the first seven days of 2014? Wretched person that you are, who can deliver you from this body of death? (Romans 7.24)

There is Christ. There is always and only Christ. Christ for the resolvers so sure that their sins only exist in response to other people’s sins. Christ for the resigned who are certain that they have blown it for the umpteenth and final time.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 7.25-8.1

If you are going to resolve this year, resolve that you will know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Resolve that you will not take even one step away from total and absolute dependence on Christ for your deliverance. Resolve to remember that if grace were something you deserved it wouldn’t be grace. Resolve that the gospel not be something those annoying sinners in your life need but something you need this year, this day, everyday.

If you are going to resign this year, resign yourself to the fact that you are indeed the worst sinner in your life and God loves you and sent his Son to die for you and He does not condemn you anymore, so neither should you. Resign yourself to understand that if grace were something you could earn it wouldn’t be grace anymore. Resign yourself to absolute and utter dependence on Christ and His work this year, this day, everyday.

Resolve to know Christ and Christ alone. Resign to need Christ and Christ always. And enjoy the journey.

Drinking Songs

Guess What Day New Year’s Day is…

Well, it’s January 1.  That means it is another first day’s shot at reading through the Bible in a year (maybe less).  I’ve seen many blogs on reading schedule choices (Here’s a great blog with many choices).  I decided to go simple this year.  My bible has 1042 pages in it from Genesis 1.1 to revelation22.21.  Divided out over 365 days that comes to 2.85 pages.  I know that I will have less regularity over the weekends than I wish I would, so I upped it to 4 pages.  4 pages a day and you can read the entire Bible in a year even if you only read on weekdays (yes, I know smarty-pants-with-the-calculator-app, that’s only 1040 pages, but my Bible has 3 blank pages between the New Testament and the New Testament).

Todays reading covered Creation, the fall of man into sin, and ended with the birth of Noah.

First Songs and Implications for Drunkenness

In reading today I was struck by the first two songs recorded in the Bible.  One sung by Adam, one sung by a man seven generations removed from Adam through his son Cain, Lamech.

Adam sings in Genesis 2.23.  Sin has not yet corrupted man’s thoughts or desires. So what do we find in song on the lips of this sinless Adam?  A Hymn? No.  A song of praise? Yes.  About God?  No.  About his wife.

“This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called Woman,

because she was taken out of Man.”

Though the song is not sexual, it does have sexual undertones.  Eve has been brought to Adam to be the perfect receptor of his love.  She alone perfectly completes him. Together they are the perfect culmination of creation.  Immediately following the song, they are spoken of as being wed fast together and becoming one flesh.  The chapter ends by stating that they were both naked and were not ashamed.

The implications about God’s goodness are profound.  Our father in heaven delights in the physical love between a husband and wife.  The only two places in Scripture where God endorses drunkenness and indulgence both refer to the physical love between a husband and wife. In Proverbs 5.19 the young man is instructed to be intoxicated with love for his wife.  In Song of Solomon 5.1 both the husband and the wife are encouraged, even cheered on, to be drunk with love for each other.

As with so many other good gifts from God, the greater the gift the greater the potential we have for destroying it with our sin.

The second song ever recorded in Scripture for us also, at first glance, does not seem to have any sexual implications, however on deeper reading we see the foundation laid in the destruction of God’s design.

In Genesis 5.23 we read a song Lamech sang to his wives.

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;

you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for striking me.

If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,

then Lamech’s is seventy.”

Lamech sings praises to violence.  He is pleased with himself for killing a young man who had offended him.  He puts himself in the place of God as Judge, and Executioner of this young man and as Defender of himself and his own actions.  Lamech is drunk on violence and satisfying his own cravings without one care about anyone in his path or in his wake

Where does sex enter into this song?  In Geneses 5.19 we are told, “And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.”  Lamech had done violence to God’s design and to other humans before he ever killed that young man.  Lamech had decided that God’s design and plan for marriage was not for him.

Many point to Scripture, especially the Old Testament, as proof that polygamy was acceptable to God at least at one point.  But you cannot find a description of polygamy in the Bible where a happy family life or happy ending is described.

When the union, which God went to such lengths to create and bless and grant incomparable delight for us, is broken – whether through adultery, or pornography, or emotional affairs, or neglect – violence has occurred.  Without repentance and repair and reconciliation, violence will continue.  Perhaps through bitterness or resentment.  Maybe through harsh words or avoidance.  Maybe even through abuse or further destruction.

Learning the Lyrics and Draining the Dregs

As husbands and wives we can be both encouraged and warned though these songs.  The warning is striking – sexual sins, all sexual sins, always overflow and harm far more people than you thought they would.  But there is a place where God designed for you to be not only naked and unashamed with someone, but where you are encouraged to be intoxicated and drunk on one another.

Those “drunk” passages come centuries after sin entered the world.  That kind of love between husband and wife is possible even in the midst of a fallen world, even in the aftermath of grievous sin against each other.  There is hope, because there is forgiveness, because we have a Savior who did not get drunk on love but got drunk on God’s wrath so that we could drink from God’s cup of blessing and find forgiveness and restoration and hope for all of our relationships.  After all we are called now the bride of Christ and the union between husband and wife was intended from the beginning to be a picture of the union between us and Jesus Christ.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  -Ephesians 5.28-32

For my married friends – May 2014 be a year of wonderful repair and restoration and wonton drunkenness between you and you spouse.

For my unmarried friends – in the words of the most interesting man in the world, “Stay thirsty, my friends.”