Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions

Discernment of the Holy Spirit is essential. This skill is one that we never master because there is always room for improvement. Still, it is important for Christians to have a baseline understanding on how the Holy Spirit speaks. If anything, to know how the Spirit does not speak. Otherwise, we may just make important spiritual decisions on our own, which we are sure to get wrong from time-to-time.

Unfortunately, it took two difficult pastorates for me to grow in the area of discernment. In fact, as I look back at one set of church interviews, it was clear that God was shouting to me, “DO NOT GO HERE!” Sadly, like many others, I had to learn through the hard path of experience. Continue reading “Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions”

Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions

Once upon a time, it was thought that I lied to a church about moving into their parsonage. That is not exactly correct. While I failed to communicate my change of mind, I did not lie. These points and more I accept responsibility. More importantly, I am glad for God’s redemption ability despite challenging church leadership and my poor judgment.

As stated in a previous post, “The Church Parsonage is Not a Benefit,” but many churches believe it is an excellent tool to recruit ministers. In some cases, it still is a significant advantage. More and more pastors though are declining to live in them. Like many in their congregation, they want to build equity for their family’s future, which a provided house does not give. As a result, many churches are choosing to sell their parsonages. However, where I once pastored the expectation was still for the pastor to live in the parsonage.

The conflict over me and their parsonage began when a deacon on the Pulpit Search Committee asked

“Brother Mike, I got a question for you! Are you going to live in our pastorium?!”

On asking his question, there was at least one committee member who interjected against this deacon’s question. His objection centered on the previous pastor who experienced problems when he lived in the home owned by the church. Despite this committee member’s concern, the deacon reiterated with,

“Hey, our former pastor needed to get out. When you resign as the pastor, you need to exit the pastorium sooner than later. Besides, we are better than some churches. I know one church who had the water cut off the next day. We gave the former pastor more time than a day!” 

This scenario was a shock to my senses. Not only did I doubt the long-term benefit of living in any parsonage; the committee was admitting their checkered history with their building. Still, I had to give a response, so I said, Continue reading “Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions”

The Veggie Boat Tour: Pastoral Redemptions

As a pastor, I get to know a diversity of people. Some of these individuals have hobbies and resources they shared with me and my family.Thankfully, these resources have provided good memories from my time as a pastor. Specifically, this story will cause me to fondly remember speedboats, couples’ communication, and veggie sandwiches.

Now, these people are some of my favorite people I have ever had the chance to pastor. Not only are they still they great supporters of both Amy and me, but we had a lot of values we shared together. Still, though they are friends I will refer to them as Larry and Sara in this amusing story.

Our boat journey began at a local State Park where we would put their boat into the lake. Unfortunately, our entry into the lake would be delayed because Larry forgot the ignition keys. This oversight was already embarrassing enough, but to make matters worse Sara fussed at him with her frustration. As an outsider to their debates I believe she too was embarrassed, but for different reasons.

Fortunately, Larry’s mistake was correctable since they only lived 5 miles away. This fact of convenience did not comfort Sara as she still spoke her mind towards Larry about his error. The fervor she expressed seemed like he had done something much worse. Larry, being the wise man he is decided to stop arguing and drive off to get the keys. Finally, he returned and Larry, Sara, Amy and I were on the lake with only a delay of 30 minutes from our original launch time.

Together, we each enjoyed the rest of the morning. As we traveled over the lake’s water Lary and Sara showed us how close their house was to the lake. Additionally, we saw other landmarks such as favorite dive points to the lake’s wealthier homes. It was a fun time and without incident…until lunch. Remember, earlier Larry suffered his share of embarrassment; now it was Sara’s turn. Continue reading “The Veggie Boat Tour: Pastoral Redemptions”

The Depth of Anxiety – Applying Grace

Anxiety confronts us all. Circumstances will always arise that cause a fight or flight response from us. Sure, we may manage stress, but it does not make us immune from it. This fact should not discourage us. Rather, we should be encouraged because we are no different than anyone else. Plus, there are effective coping techniques to assist us, if we will use them.

As Christians, our primary coping mechanism should be faith in Jesus. Not just a faith that saves, but a faith that comforts us daily in each circumstance. See, we forget that the grace of Jesus is available to us so we can rest in Him than in ourselves. In fact, I believe God allows anxieties into our lives to serve as constant reminders that we need to rely on Him than ourselves. In other words, if you are a very anxious person, then rejoice because God loves you. He loves you so much that he allows anxiety as a discipline in your life so that we will relate to Him more intimately (Heb 12:5-8).

Personally, this lesson is one where a continue workplace conflict taught me this lesson. Continue reading “The Depth of Anxiety – Applying Grace”

Book Review: New Morning Mercies, by Paul Tripp

UnknownDevotionals can be a dime a dozen. The way they are laid out is almost as predictable as a crime show procedural. Readers know there will be an entry for each day and that the entry will not be very long. Usually there is a scripture to accompany the devotional and after each one is read a reader moves onto the next day. As a result, it is tough to add something new to the genre, but Paul Tripp does this with his yearly devotional, “New Morning Mercies.” He does this by simply focusing on the foundational aspect of the Christian life, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel is a mystery that Tripp helps the reader unpack each day in this devotional. As one learns from the book, it is uniquely simple, yet completely profound. As a result, Christians can pursue two paths towards the Gospel. First, they can believe they understand all they need to know about the Gospel and never go any deeper. This can stem from teaching that mainly emphasizes the saving element of the Gospel and not much else. However, the grace of the Gospel does much more than that, it sanctifies and grows a person in Christ. This is the second path Christians should take in regard to the Gospel once they are eternally secure by the grace of God. By growing in one’s understanding and application of the Gospel each day transformation occurs that eventually leads one to fall more in love with Jesus. There becomes a deep affection for Christ that encourages one to continue to unpack the mysteries that the Gospel has to offer. In other words, the ability to understand the Gospel is without end and Tripp masterfully writes about it each day in this devotional. Continue reading “Book Review: New Morning Mercies, by Paul Tripp”

Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You by Tim Keller

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A lot has been written about the book of Romans. Some people interpret it in fragments and fail to see the holistic theme of the book. For example, some people have taken chapters 9 through 11 as written only for Israel, while the rest of the book is meant for non-Israel. Yet neither approach is correct. Rather, as Tim Keller has written Romans 8-16 For You, Romans is about the Gospel. He writes,

“The first seven chapters explain the wonderful truths of the gospel: of justification by faith, of union with Christ, of salvation through Christ alone and not through our works…Then comes the second half of the book. In chapters 8 to 16, Paul is going to continue to answer a question he began to ask in chapters 5 to 7: How does faith in the gospel of Christ actually lead to change in real life?”

Basically, Romans has a unified theme and a simple message, which is, the Gospel for salvation and transformation. From this simple message Paul relates it to very complex issues to show the truth. He practically relates the Gospel for all aspects of life. Each of these issues – adversity, predestination, Israel’s salvation, loving enemies, relationship to government, loving one’s neighbor, stumbling blocks, unity, and women’s roles in the church – Keller directly interprets. Below are some of the issues in more detail.

Love and Gratitude Flow from the Gospel

Keller spends time exegeting chapter eight. He wants to connect to the first seven chapters of Romans to “remember what Christ has done and will do for us…to feel the obligations of love and gratitude to serve and know him.” By doing so Keller is able to explain the doctrines of divine election much easier. This is because living in gratitude for what God has finished about salvation allows Christians to directly see the importance of biblical predestination. A connection that will be explained further in the next section of this review.

Divine Election and Predestination’s Connection to the Gospel Continue reading “Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You by Tim Keller”

My One-Word Goal For 2015

“We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” (Hebrews 6:19, HCSB)

Last week, I posted an article about New Years Resolutions and how we should turn them into one-word goals than instant changes. By doing so we will have more results. As a result, today I want to share with you my one-word goal for 2015, which is, “hope.”HomeImage-OneWord

The reason I chose hope for 2015 is because it builds on my one-word goal in 2014, which was “grace.” In 2014 I continued on a journey of understanding practical and common grace better than I ever had before. In fact, 2014’s goal really began in November of 2013 when I hit a personal low over Thanksgiving weekend.

The months leading up to this weekend were extremely stressful for me. Some of it was self-induced, some it was not. Either way, the combined pressure of nearly losing my job, being apart of a mentoring process aimed to stretch me, a family conflict, and putting pride in my accomplishments caused me to realize a change was needed. As Tullian Tchividjian writes in his devotional, It is Finished,

“The grace of God always prevails. When we finally come to the end of ourselves, there it will be. There He will be. Just as He will be the next time we come to the end of ourselves, and the time after that, and the time after that.”[1] Continue reading “My One-Word Goal For 2015”