One of the questions I have been pondering and praying about in these first two weeks of sabbatical concerns my identity in Christ. Do I want to be known as one who is loved by Christ or do I want to be the Christ. I think this is a very real temptation for pastors, and probably many other followers of Jesus, as well. I am very often not content to let God be God. I try to work my way into equal standing with God and place myself on some sort of higher ground as God uses me.
I want to do something great, as if I am the one who does great things.
I want to say the perfect thing or pray the right prayer that changes someones life, as if I have the power of salvation.
I want to teach a lesson that opens a teenager’s heart and mind to seeing God, as if I am capable of divine revelation.
It is my pride at it’s ugliest, pretending that I am God when I most certainly am nowhere near being God. It is legalism buried deep in me that I try to earn some distinction in God’s eyes for being a better pastor that anyone else.
As I sit this morning between yesterday’s cross and tomorrow’s empty grave, I am reminded that the good news is that Jesus came to destroy my need to measure up and earn anything. He calls me to rest in him. He calls me to take up my cross and follow him. He calls me to find myself in him, not in my vain striving.
And that is enough, to be known as one who is loved by Christ.
I pray that I might live and pastor with that truth planted firmly and deeply in me. I pray it for you this morning, as well.
For those of you who don’t know, my church gives pastors the opportunity to take a sabbatical rest once every four years. It is a time to be away from the church and office and be near to God and family and learn new things. My sabbatical goes until June 16. I will record some reflections here each week.
In no particular order:
- I really love my wife. It has been great getting to see her a whole bunch for the last week.
- I live life just on the safe side of great because I’m afraid that maybe I’m not capable of greatness and know I am very capable of failure. Whew! God has been speaking to me about this for almost a year, but it really hit me this first week of sabbatical during some reading I’m doing. God, give me courage…
- I am not God and I don’t want to be God. But I do want to be his follower. I have more thoughts about this to share later this week or next.
- I miss students and my volunteer leaders a ton. They are part of the rhythm of my normal life.
- I spent a whole Sunday with my family. That hasn’t happened in years. It was awesome to go into church together, sit together, eat lunch together and then spend the rest of the day together. And to not follow the KU game from my phone and actually get to watch it? That was great.
- I’m not great at slowing down but still being productive. I tend to run at either all-out or veg-out. I’m hoping sabbatical helps me find the in-between. The first week was a fail. I walked around my house in circles. A lot.
- I was struck this week by what an enormous gift it is to spend a quarter of Langley’s first year at home with her. I get to participate in the build towards a lot of “first’s” in the next 3 months. I am really excited for that.
- And a cute picture of her since I talked about her:
This is child #1. My only son, Carsen.
Carsen loves two things in life. Fish, especially sharks, and basketball. In fact, one of his goals in life is to start a basketball team that will play KU called the Kansas Sharks. They will never lose. And he wants to live in a house that is underwater and save fish.
Carsen is passionate. He never understands why anyone, especially his sisters, aren’t as excited about things as he is. He will give you facts about the ocean until he goes hoarse and he will tell you about game-winning shots and amazing dunks until you want to be on the court with him. I LOVE this about him. (Of course, sometimes it also drives me absolutely crazy! My head only has so much space for facts about the midnight zone of the ocean. That space is much smaller than Carsen’s.)
Carsen has kids from his class signing up for a club that he, with Kennedy’s help, has started. It’s called the “Save Fish Club”. He has read about over-fishing and the dangers of pollution in the ocean and has decided he wants to do something about it. He has no idea what to do(other than the living underwater thing). Neither do I!
So I have a request: Next week our family is going to Kansas City and visiting the aquarium on Wednesday. If any of you, the 20+ readers of this blog, know someone who knows someone at the aquarium, it would be awesome if Carsen had the chance to learn and see things from the non-tourist side while we are there. If not, we will still have an awesome time and I’m sure I will learn a ton of things about coral reefs that I didn’t know.
It’s been a while since I’ve wondered…
- I wonder if this week before sabbatical will fly by or drag by.
- I wonder what God is trying to say to me these days. I feel like I hear God a lot. I know what he is saying/asking/telling me. I do not really see the “why” in it, though. I am exceedingly alright with that.
- I wonder if the Nuggets can catch the Clippers or Memphis and get home court in the 1st round. It is their only chance of winning a series.
- I wonder why saying “no” to God often seems so much easier than saying “yes.”
- I wonder why I can tell that blue M&M’s obviously taste better than the other colors but some people can’t.
- I wonder what God is gonna do in and through kid #4. She is sitting next to me right now talking and being cute and I just wonder…
What do you wonder about today?
This last weekend I was at a conference where we talked quite a bit about evangelism. The importance of sharing the gospel with others and why it is often hard to do.
After the session on evangelism I was talking to a pastor named Israel. Israel has been a Pastor who works full time outside the church for years. At one point in his life he worked as a door-to-door insurance salesman and he said our problem with evangelism is that we NEVER approach it like a salesman.
Normally, if we talked about doing evangelism like a salesman, it would be a bad thing. But Israel is certain the US church is missing something when it comes to sharing about Jesus.
When someone answered their door, this is what Israel said, “Hello, my name is Israel. If you died today do you know how your family would pay for your funeral?”
Direct. To the point. Sometimes people invited him to share more, sometimes they didn’t. But the NEVER wondered what he was all about.
So often we wait and wait and wait to talk about Jesus because we do not want to hurt or offend somebody. But maybe we just need to put it out there. We need to proclaim the good news that Jesus is the rescuer of all people who trust in him. It doesn’t have to be pushy or mean or angry, just honest. This is not easy for many people. It certainly isn’t for me.
But the US church is shrinking. We have unreached people groups in the USA. That’s right, the USA with church budgets regularly over 1 million dollars annually is shrinking. Statistics say that it in the US every 85 Christians will bring 1 to Jesus each year. In China 1 Christian brings 4 people to Jesus each year. It’s time we wake up and start sharing the good news that Jesus is the one who saves us from sin and death and ourselves. Jesus was clear about our call:
“Go and make disciples of all nations.”
I’m spending the weekend in the Rio Grande Valley just north of the US-Mexico border. I’m at a conference for church leaders at the border churches in my conference of the Mennonite church. The room is full of stories of faith and boldly loving others in the name of Christ.
And today I’m supposed to share something with this room of men and women.
This terrifies me.
But as I have prayed and worked on my talk for today, I have been overwhelmed with the feeling that God is not asking me to know more than I know or be anything other than faithful.
I think that is what he calls each us to each day. Be who you are in Christ and be faithful to what He is calling you to.
And then, GO!!!!!