The past couple of weeks have allowed me some needed time off. As a general rule, the elders have asked that I am in the pulpit at least 44 out of 52 Sundays. This allows for our church to benefit from the wide-range of other men, who can preach God’s word to us. One of the joyful challenges we’re currently facing is that we have such a large number of men who can “rightly handle the Word of God” that it makes it a challenge to get them in the pulpit more often. The joyful reality of this has been what we’ve enjoyed over the course of this summer. The different men sharing from their favorite Psalm has been a remarkable blessing. I have learned, grown, been convicted, encouraged, and edified by these guys. Be sure to thank them when they come to your mind.
Now, these last two weeks have afforded me some time to think about different things. These musings are a result of that. I just want to offer you some of these thoughts.
There used to be a day in our world, when sitting down and respectfully discussing opposing views was not only needed, but honored. However, those days seem like centuries ago. Now, if you disagree with me or I disagree with you, the best way to treat each other is to disparage one another. Sadly, rather than coming to conclusions or having ideas that are bigger than our own minds, we have narrow points of view, that we think will set us free or gain us greater liberty. But here’s the sad reality: it is actually causing more bondage. It’s certainly causing greater division and strife.
But just think about the realities and the power of the gospel over all of this. As Christians, we are called by God to:
- Love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44).
- If at all possible…live peaceably with all people (Romans 12:18)
- Let our speech be gracious, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6)
- Give an answer of the hope within us…with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
Nowhere in the biblical narrative is there found a vilifying of others, disparaging them, and calling them names. I believe this is a critical cultural moment for the Church, to be the Church. And by that, I don’t just mean holding signs in protest or disregarding mandates from the civil authorities we don’t like. I believe, now more than ever, the traits of Christ, like meekness, gentleness, respect, and kindness…filled with candor and honesty are needed deeply. The fields are “white for harvest” so let’s pray that the Lord of the Harvest would help us live winsomely, graciously, and faithfully.
When I was a young preacher, I had many folks applaud my preaching, honor me, and this filled my mind with thoughts of grandeur. My selfish ambition really begin to lead the way in ministry. I thought I would be the next “Billy Graham” or the next…you name it.
However, the Lord, in His kindness, started chipping away at this “being famous” approach to ministry. He did it through John the Baptist’s words in John 3:30, when speaking of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” And through the gospel penetrating the desires of my heart to honor Christ with my life and believing that what He brought my way was best for me. God used the Puritan pastor, Thomas Watson, to speak this idea to my soul: God knows me so well, that He knows what to withhold from me…because the thing that I desire, might be the very thing that destroyed me.
Here’s an example: several years ago, there was a major league baseball player named Lenny Dykstra. You can look up his Wikipedia page by clicking on his name. Dykstra, was a left-handed hitting outfielder, who played hard and lived hard. When I read his after-playing struggles, I see myself. I often wondered if the Lord gave me that type of fame, what would I become?
When I transfer this thought over to ministry, I’ve seen countless famous preachers or famous evangelical leaders either fail morally, ethically, or relationally. And I’ve also witnessed, faithful famous guys, go through unreal number of public and at times, Satanic, attacks on their lives, families, and ministries.
I say all this, not as a way of criticism or judgment, but rather as a picture of gratitude for the Lord’s kindness in all of our lives. We so often think (and rightfully so) that the good things the Lord does in our lives deserves our gratitude and praise to Him. But, how often have you thought of the things that you’ve desired, that He hasn’t given to you, as good gifts from His gracious hand?
Controlling Your Spirit
Two weeks ago, we went on a family vacation and camped in Sisters (we love that little town). Before we left, I made up my mind that I would not lose my mind:). I’m not sure how you handle the packing for camp and then the setting up of camp, but my family has informed me that, through the years, I’ve had a tendency to be a little uptight about setting stuff up. So, I made up my mind that I was not going to allow myself to get frustrated. Throughout the week, I found myself responding with “nope, not going to let myself get weird here” or “not going to get ticked right now.” And breathed deeply, prayed often, and the fruit of that week, was recently my wife stating that she saw grace at work in me in a powerful way that week. I’m really glad.
But, this has been something I’ve been considering quite a bit…controlling your spirit, is one of the most challenging things to do, and yet, the gospel is powerful enough to help us. Here’s some passages that have been on my mind the past few months:
- A person who controls his spirit is greater than someone who can take a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
- Having a cool spirit gives understanding. Which would mean that having a hot spirit doesn’t. (Proverbs 17:27)
- A fool vents…(Proverbs 29:11)
Recently someone asked me how I can not be frustrated by what I see going on in our world today. My response was that I was a bothered, but I asked myself a bigger question: where do I see God at work right now? And my mind began to think of the various ways I’ve seen God moving and it pushed out my frustration. It made me see that God was using our present circumstances to do things that were far beyond what I could imagine.
Where do you need the power of the gospel to control your spirit?
From the Cheap Seats
- “Dad, why do all your favorite teams stink?” from my very precocious 13-year old daughter. Unreal…yet true.
- This past Saturday, on my Bleacher Report feed, there was a highlight of Bryce Harper hitting a 470 foot bomb and the next was Mike Trout laying out horizontally to make a catch. Kids…if you want to watch history before your eyes…watch Mike Trout.
- Leo Messi to Manchester City…please!
- I’m sad for the fall college athletes whose seasons were pushed to the spring. Some will say, “well, at least they get to play.” But the seniors or the “next-level” type of players, will need to miss the spring because their draft stock depends on them playing this fall. It’s going to be awfully tough on those athletes to go from spring season, to draft, to training camp, then their next fall season.