Vitality found with brothers

Today I found myself again. I was given tremendous grace from Jesus as I met with a group of dear pastor brothers first at a coffee with two important friends and then the cohort at San Diego Church Planting. The cohort is a group of pastors and planters with a desire to do ministry in our city together for a long time. To support and care for one another.

The day began for me juggling the many needs of our small church and a lamenting session with elder Bill about how tired I was shouldering the responsibilities as a lone staff member. Added to that feeling a headache and pinched nerve in my back, I was a grumpy Gus.

But the Lord used these brothers to administer his grace and goodness to my weary soul. First over coffee I was reminded that my struggles are not unique to me and as we talked about the challenges and hopes of our churches I felt the keen reminder of God’s grace for our work and the need to rely on the Spirit for the power to do the work he has called us to.

Then over lunch connecting with other men doing ministry in our city I found myself thanking the Lord for the support this group has been for me. As we rose to sing together the presence of God was noticeable and the singing was such a rich reminder of the grace we all preach of each week and are in desperate need of ourselves.

From there we heard a gentle exhortation on gentleness in ministry and we studied Scripture together to affirm the call toward it for us as pastors. And we ended our time praying for one another.

I left refreshed. Where I had entered the day with bitterness, Jesus was gentle to me through the love of brothers and he gave me rest. It was like catching my breath and reclaiming the vision for ministry the Lord has given me.

This is the reason I am so passionate about encouraging pastors in our city and county to form groups to pray for one another. And it is why I think it is so vital for churches to partner with doctrinally aligned networks so pastors have this type of encouragement from those invested in their ministry and church.

Pastor, please find other pastors that can support you and pray with you. It is vital and a way to vitality.

Loving God for Himself Alone

This week I preached on the bigness of God from Isaiah 40:12-26. That because he is so big we can trust him with our lives. Now all of us that claim faith in Christ can on the surface agree to this and let it warm us on a Sunday morning, but how does it help us on a Monday afternoon?

Normal pressures of life punctuate the worship gathering and we swim back into the soup of the clamor of smaller things demanding to reign in our lives. We believe God is big enough to care for us, but how will the bills get paid? We believe God holds all of creation in his hand, but what if our adult children never speak to us again? We believe nations are emptiness before God, but what about the burden of our tax liability?

The list could go on, and sure it would be specific to you, external demands, responsibilities, emotions and the overall sense of exile without end weigh us down. Can we really turn to Jesus with all of this?

It is far too easy to turn faith into a transactional relationship. I believe in God so he gives me a job, or I pray hard and long enough and I will finally be delivered…etc. But is believing in and following Jesus worthwhile if none of the externals are dealt with? Do we love God for himself alone?

The thinking brings to mind one of the most popular of Bible stories. The fiery furnace. Disobedient to the cultural demands of worship at the golden image which would make their own faith in God private, the three Jewish young men are brought before the king.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16–18 (ESV)

They profess how big God is – big enough to deliver them out of the fire – but what’s more, they profess that even if he doesn’t they won’t bow to the fake gods. Even in the breakthrough doesn’t come, even if I remain in the valley, if I live and die in exile, I will still only worship God.

It is bold faith.

Yes, God delivers them. They are freed from the furnace and in many of our own “furnaces” God works to free us. But friends he is worth worshiping because of who he is. We don’t need the addition of circumstance or the change thereof.

Come what may, we will worship. Let’s say that. Let’s live that. Let’s rejoice when we come out the other side. Let’s look up and behold our God and gain an eager vision for eternity with him – the promise he is big enough to deliver. Let’s love God for himself alone.

Robbing Worship of its Reverence

Several months ago Air1 (a national Christian radio station) tweaked its format to include mostly what is defined as “worship” music. They even added tag lines of “worship now” and the like, making sure listeners understood that this was the new place to hear worshipful music you might sing in church as you seek to glorify Christ. I think it has been a good change and I enjoy the music and the intention behind it.

The fascinating thing about the change to me however is the lack of continuity with other content on the station. While the playlist has shifted nothing else has. So the station comes out of a meaningful song with trite banter. The hosts talk about funny text messages they have received, the tragedy of lost food, or anything else they think will entertain you.

This morning as I dropped a kid off at camp I was struck that the song was raising a hallelujah but the conversation was laughing about things spouses have to put in storage when they get married.

Is this the church? We sing a few songs because after all that is “worship” then we move into entertainment mode. Incongruent and missing the point. I get the challenge and have been guilty of allowing elements in the service that detract from our corporate worship. It has me wanting the reverence meant to accompany worship.

Perhaps this is one reason I prefer Spotify to the radio and why people are finding their entertainment in places other than a church on Sunday…