Tag Archives: pastor

calling or quitting

I vacillate too many times a week because IT is hard.

I vacillate between calling and quitting – that is, pastoral ministry.

I don’t mind the sound of that, even for people whom I serve as their pastor.  In fact, I am beginning to wonder if my wandering thoughts toward quitting pastoral ministry (for reasons that are too familial and spiritual and personal for a public blog) is in reality, my beginning to wrestle with the reality of God’s calling over my life, in the truest sense.

So I am not saying I am quitting.  I am saying that the thought of quitting makes me wonder about having been CALLED by God in the first place.  Does that make sense?  Maybe when I never wrestled with the difficulty of how gospel-living and ministry was supposed to be a battle of spirit-vs-flesh, of Spirit-vs-world… maybe when I never wrestled within my soul and tired body about that normal reality in a world of Christ’s already-not-yet kingdom, I never really understood calling.

Hmm.

Our home has been trafficked by more spiritual upheaval than I thought possible.  Most always my sin.  But how about loneliness now.  How about exhaustion… too little sleep.  How about hospitality of a homeless person to recently BREAK me of how I don’t want to be inconvenienced… at all.  How about not pastoring my wife and kids as well as I should.  How about having the shortest leash in the world for 120 adults.

So I think “quit” when in reality I guess I am looking up to God – my Father – for help about “calling.”  Is this how things go in an inaugurated kingdom?  Is this my immaturity as a pastor of only 8 years?  Is this the collision of kingdom-v-world that will always be, whether one is a banker, a welder, an at home mom, or a pastor?

Calling or quitting… crashing makes me ask.

Sometimes I wonder what Timothy was going through in Ephesus when Paul said to him:

Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.  Do not neglect the gift that you have, which was given you by prophecy when the elders laid their hands on you (CALLING/ORDINATION).  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.  Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4.12-16)

That sounds so hard.  Timothy, were you vacillating?

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thoughts, not mine so enjoy

Been a while since blogging anything.  I am not apologetic, just up to my eyeballs.  Life has CHANGED!  A church has been planted.  God, plant maturity and discipleship and direction in it.  What a new season this is!

God give me the wisdom to prioritize my FAMILY.  My LIFE basking in the love and calling of obedience of Christ.  My PREACHING.  My PASTORATE.  I have never thought life could go mach speed like this.

So, below are some quotes from people I have been reading as a means of keeping me grounded in truth.  Typing them out for you all (my minimal blog friends because I never post anymore) – that the typing would also implant them into my heart, soul and mind.

Since I occupy a position of responsibility in the church, I think I am more responsible to be humble even than others are.  God demands that I be DEAD to EVERYTHING.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

The moment we decide to start listening to the voice of self screeching its complaints in our ear, we can no longer hear the more modest wisperings of divine love… The love of God desires that self should be forgotten, that it should be counted as nothing, that God might be all in all.  God knows that it is best for us when SELF IS TRAMPLED under foot and broken as an idol, in order that He might live within us.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

I have no doubt that God considers you to be one of his friends.  Otherwise, he would not trust you with so many crosses, sufferings and humiliations.  Crosses are God’s means of drawing souls closer to himself.  And these crosses accomplish his purposes much more rapidly and effectually than all of our personal efforts put together.  Crosses DESTROY SELF LOVE at its very root, down in the depths of the human spirit where we can hardly detect it.  But God knows where it is lodged, and he attacks it in its greatest strongholds.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By know means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it? … We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  (apostle Paul, Romans 6)

Die to jim jim.  Never has the thought of noNOT being ME been so freeing to be ME in Christ.  Sorry for all the excessive self – emphasis.  Kind of ironic in light of a DEATH to self and life to Christ consideration!

Well, one more quote … using it at WVPC as we consider the book of Acts this summer as far as WHO we are called to be as the church of God in this place ast this time.

Getting into the book of Acts is like opening a window in a stuffy room.  The wind of the Spirit blows through it.  HERE IS REALITY.  Feeling its emerging freshness, we should neither try to excuse our spiritual ineptness, nor relegate its vitality to a bygone era.  The apostolic church, not the prevaling mediocrity of our religious community, sets the norm.  Where we perceive our shortcomings, in all honesty, we should seek to bring our lives into  conformity to the New Testament standard.  (Robert Coleman)

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Psalm 40 – my psalm

This morning it was warm – only 20 something degrees.  So I walked to work (took the days off that were in the single digits).  Actually, I danced in the streets, so it felt in my heart.  Not sure why.

Kori questioned me at lunch – what was it?  Well, for one – our family seems to be done vomiting.  But I don’t think that is it.  I read Psalm 40 this morning and it seemed to be filled with divinely inspired words describing my life over the past few months. 

Weird, because in the Psalm, David even references that “the scroll of the book was written of him” (v.8)… which promted him to delight all the more to serve the Lord and safekeep the  law within his heart.  I could not have had more of a feeling than that “the 40th Psalm of the book was written of me.”  I considered v.9, how I have spent the last 3 months preaching as the launch-pastor of West Valley Presbyterian Churchplant (our sermons are now online by the way – www.westvalleypres.org).   Yes, I have sought to “tell the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation.”  We have  not failed to celebrate and declare the gospel alone through the Word.  But this has not just been formal declartation.  Of late, I have shared with our congregation the work God has been doing to rescue me from myopia and some of the internal people-pleasing and selfish struggles of my life that a church plant has revealed… all the way down to family dynamics (is a pastor supposed to keep such growth plates hidden?).  It has been kinda like v.10 – “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.”

Then v.12 hits the heart of the matter.  “For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see.”  Interestingly, I have been overcome by iniquity before, since about … O … age 2.  I can name them: anger, lust, pride, self-righteousness.  But this season has been one in which I have felt encompassed by the evil of a fallen world – sickness, dark winter depression, anxiety… things that seem outside of the realm of the iniquity I know so well!  It has been a miry bog (v.2) that has ironically collided with a glorious time for WVPC!  While in the miry bog, I didn’t blog much, reach out much, or say much – even though things were moving well by God’s design in “the great congregation.”   Why the melancholy?  Because I couldn’t see (v.12) 

Wow.  God you are a God of grace and mercy who truly loves the broken-hearted.  You have shown the hearts of many at West Valley PCA just how broken we are SO THAT we can now offer a sacrifice that is pleasing and acceptable through Christ our righteousness.  Thank you. 

So… today, why did I float to my ipod down main street?  Is it not because “all who seek you will rejoice and be glad in you; we who love our salvation will say, ‘Great is the Lord!'”(v.16)  Yes, I think that is it.  And no vomiting.  And yet, the posture of a pastor in the great congregation (OK, a churchplant of chaos but growth) is told to me at the close of the the text in v.17 – “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought of me.  You are my help and my deliverer, do not delay, O my God!”

Yes, I can say that I see I am poor and needy, yet the Lord looks upon me so much that he would SHOW THAT TO ME in these first 3 months at West Valley.  Thank you God.  When I am weak, then you are strong – in my home, my life, my vocation.  Amen.

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my friend eugene

I have a friend.  I should stop this post with that.  

Sincerely, I have a friend who speaks to me things which I deserve to have spoken AT me.  Hard things has he said to me.  Honest assessments colliding with empathetic affections.  My friend is Mr. Eugene Peterson, who has come to speak with me about my life as a pastor.  How nice of him to write a whole book for an undeserving aquaintance-turned-friend as me.  Under the Unpredictable Plant – An exploration in vocational holiness is about me, to me.

I have found that I have not initially admired many of my closest friends.  Apparently, rough first impressions are a good sign for me.  As much as I long for honest assessment and compassion, I have a penchant toward judging the kinds of people whom I need most.   Mr. Eugene was one such person.  I have never read much of Eugene Peterson.  Committed to expositional preaching of reliable translations of Scripture (the ESV!!!), I have avoided his “translation” (yes, in quotes) – The Message.  It has never found its way to my study.  Sorry Eugene, please forgive me.  The first impression has passed.  I declare that I have neglected a supplemental literary gift.  My friend Eugene is a good writer; he has shown me.

I weigh his experience against my own: “Somewhere along the way, as  I searched out my origins… I saw that alongside and intertwined with being a pastor I was also a writer.  My vocation was bipolar.  I do not know how I knew so certainly, for it was to be many years before I was published, but the conviction deepened in me that writer was parallel to pastor in my vocation.  Not in competition with it, the writer and the pastor  fighting for equal time.  Not in submission to it, the writer being a servant to the pastor, writing down his message so that others could read it.  But partners, writer and pastor as vocational twins. 

Eugene, writes of himself, yet I read of myself for good reason.  It was in the chaos of being a young organizing pastor of a church plant that he felt convinced of his vocational bipolarity.  He gives word to my soul – “I felt beleagured.  I had been sent to organize a new church and so was a pastor without a congregation.  I was a writer, but unpublished.  There was no market for who I was, no job that fit my vocation.”

Why have I so seldomly blogged of late?!  Many reasons.  Why have I set aside my writing pursuits that brought joy and peace and purpose?!  Many good reasons.  And yet, listening to Eugene, I can now label what I have wordlessly felt  – I have bifurcated my vocational personality!  I love writing.  I believe God has called me to it.  Twice I have written 100 page manuscripts only to walk away confused as to why I am wanting to be what I am.  Eugene has reminded me. 

Of course, he has reminded me of much more.  His words have clarified my vocational calling to pastor God’s people as opposed to succoming to “religious careerism.”  His experiences penned have biographically sketched my first three months as the organizing pastor of West Valley PCA.  He has managed to convince me that the people to whom I have been called play a special role in my own spiritual formation.  They for me more than I for them.  “The congregation is the pastor’s place for developing vocational holiness.   It goes without saying that it is the place of ministry: we preach the Word and administer the sacraments, we give pastoral care and administer the community life, we teach and give spiritual direction.  But it is also the place in which we develop virtue, learn to love, advance in hope – become what we preach.  At the same time we proclaim the holy gospel, we develop a holy life… The congregation provides the rythems, the associations, the tasks, the limitations, the temptations – the conditions – for this growing up ‘in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:15).'”

Honest Eugene.  He could have told me earlier but I would not have heard him.  Yes, church planting has its glorious thrills – but so does every wild roller coaster that challenges our equilibrium and leaves us scampering away to vomit in private.  Eugene has interpreted for me the first 6 months of West Valley Presbyterian Church!  God is at work.  Congregationally.  Vocationally.  Missionally.  It is real.  It is gospel-rich.  But it has not been glamorous. 

That’s OK though – because my friend Eugene says that “parish glamorization is ecclesiastical pornography – taking photographs (skillfully airbrushed) or drawing pictures of congregations that are without spot or wrinkle.”  Thank God that such a picture is erronous – not only are the spots and wrinkles there (I have seen them)… I need them to be there.  If I would honor Christ with vocational holiness – in the bipolar sense – I need them to be there.

Thanks Eugene.

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