Saturday, April 25, 2015

Broken

Three and a half years ago I resigned as Lead Pastor of a church that I loved and gave my blood, sweat and tears to revitalize. My family and I came to that decision only after months of prayer and repeated confirmations from the Lord. (you can read about it all here)  We left with a sense of excitement and purpose because God had moved so quickly and purposefully.

My wife and I have determined in our hearts to truly hear with the same amount of clarity from the Lord that we had about leaving our church as to where He is leading us next.  Ministry, particularly the Lead Pastor position, is much more than a job; it is a relationship with many parallels to marriage.  With that in mind we have had to say no to many churches because we just didn't have His peace about saying yes.  It made me feel foolish many times.  Even though the Lord has provided for us in many ways, finances have been really tight for us and scary with some big expenses coming down the road.  I have felt this burden more than anyone. It is hard-wired in a man's heart to provide for his family.  Though I am working some side-jobs as well as guest-speaking and doing consulting with churches on church health issues, the income is only enough to pay the immediate bills and support a not-so-secret Chipotle addiction. :)  I have grappled with wondering, 'where is God?' and 'why is it taking so long?' and 'Is He done with me?' and 'At what point do I become a "former pastor"?'  I have had to endure people's speculations about if there is hidden sin in my life, if I am truly called or I have pride issues and whether or not I am truly listening to God's voice. (friends of Job) There have been some truly dark times that I have walked though. But God's grace has been there.

Months ago an opportunity opened up that, if it worked out, would make all the dashed hopes and frustrations make sense.  It was the kind of thing that brought past, present and future into focus. Surely, this was the moment and the setting where all the prophetic words that God had spoken to us would come to pass.  We stood on His promises. We were confident that even though I am the underdog (as always) God would open the door that no man could shut. Recently, we found out that the door was shut with no opportunity to even have a conversation.  It's ok, I wasn't owed anything, but to be sure I was gutted over it.  

Not even sure why I am writing this (or if anyone ever reads these things!)  apart from some cathartic need to get it out. Perhaps it's just a way to tell myself that I choose to continue to trust in the Lord.  Even though He has not done what I thought He would and what I wanted Him to, He has saved me and is with me and there is no better thing.  If my time of serving Him in ministry is done, He is still good.  Though my dreams are lying broken at my feet, I will still praise Him.  I'm a blessed man with a wife I don't deserve and great kids that love and serve the Lord.  At times I feel guilty for not being more appreciative of that.  My heart just yearns to be productive for the One who gave it all for me and I feel impotent to do anything.  I don't have the faith to talk about the future right now, so I'll just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other and trust Him with the rest. 

This song hits the mark:


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Blogger Fail

So, I am a bad blogger...  but I tweet a lot.  If you're interested in that I'm @pastoreric or twitter.com/pastoreric if you prefer.  Here are some tweets as examples.  (I will still blog occasionally when 140 characters just doesn't cut it.)


  • The pastor's relationship to the church is more than a job; it's more like the covenant relationship of marriage and should be respected
  • The measure of a man is not his successes, but rather his struggles and the fruit that they bear
  • If the focus is always on the positive, people forget the big negatives of why Jesus had to die a gruesome death in our place #Ransom
  • The epitome of God's mercy is the cross. The epitome of God's grace is His Spirit within us

  • It's bad when churches are nothing but a sea of gray hair. It is equally bad if it is nothing but styled hair and skinny jeans.
  • Effective leaders know how to celebrate victories as well as defeats.
  • If you don't fear God, you've made Him much smaller than He really is

  • Worship leaders: don't let passion breed arrogance in your heart. Your role is only one piece of the #church life puzzle #LoveYourPastor
  • Integrity in ministry doesn't mean perfection; it means truthful





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Batman saves the Jews!



For the most part, I like the fact that there are movies attempting to bring forward biblical stories and themes the last few years.  With the success of movies like the Passion and the History Channel's tv mini-series "The Bible," Hollywood is waking up.  However, there are some challenges to this new direction....

So there's a new "Exodus" movie coming out next month starring Christian Bale. The title is "Exodus: gods and kings" the description is "One man against an empire." In other words, "Batman saves the Jewish people." 

However, the only hero in the biblical story of the Exodus is God. Moses was a broken old man who was a "has been." He was someone who grew up with privilege and even though he had empathy for his people, he still lived in the palace. He was 40 when he killed a man mistreating the Jews and then he ran. He lived in the wilderness as a shepherd for another 40 yrs as God stripped away all vestiges of his former life. He was humbled and undone. At the age of 80, a new beginning at a burning bush that he was reluctant to embrace. He was too old and too broken to rely on his own plans and his own strength anymore; perfectly positioned to be used by God. The next and final 40 yrs of his life were spent putting to use his training as a shepherd (though I'm sure he didn't perceive it as training at the time). He dealt with a bunch of whiny temperamental sheep...I mean people, leading them through the same wilderness.
All this is not to say that Moses wasn't a great man, but I'm just betting the emphasis in the movie is upon the man rather than the God who made, called and empowered the man.

Looks like it will be an entertaining flick though and I'll probably go see it.  The only danger is that with this movie and movies like Noah with Russell Crowe is that the stories are becoming so twisted around so that they are completely missing the point.  I think we all expect a certain amount of creative license when movie scripts are made, but we live in a biblically illiterate culture and therefore truth is lost in the adaptation.  Those that watched the movie Noah are likely to walk away with the message that God destroyed humanity because we were bad caretakers of nature.  What it does is undermine the credibility of these events recorded in the Bible and turns them into myths and fairytales.  I wonder what message will be delivered with this latest movie. 

Maybeeee this one?


KAPOW!  BLAMM-O!  


Monday, October 27, 2014

Permission to Judge

**WARNING!!**  This posting is not Politically Correct.  Not even close.  :)


Did you know that it is not only ok, but biblical to judge?  (see Mt. 7:15-20; John 7:24; 1 Cor 5:11-13...just to name a few) )  Today you are absolutely condemned if you stand up and say that something is "Wrong."  Groupthink says that things are never wrong, just different. (unless of course you disagree with this post-modern philosophy; then you are...wrong)

But Christians DO have the biblical mandate (that is so often misapplied and thrown in our faces) to "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (Matthew 7:1).  So are we to never stand up and say what's going on around us is wrong?  Let's bring this home by looking at the two most prevalent examples in our world right now:

Are we unloving to say that homosexuality is sin?  Are we wrong to declare that homosexual "marriage" is destructive not only to the immediate people involved, but also our country?

What about Islam? Are we being prideful, ignorant and narrow minded in saying that it is a false religion that is deceiving millions of people around the world?  That it is the most common factor behind the horrible acts of terrorism happening around the globe today? Are we wrong to take a stand against Sharia Law both here and abroad?  Isn't that culturally insensitive? Intolerant? Bigoted?

Well, we have been told so. And many Christians I know are confused and stay silent because have adopted the "live and let live" philosophy of this world.  But a Christian who understands a biblical worldview knows that adopting this philosophy is more like "we'll live, but we'll let you die."

So how do we walk this biblical line?  Is it possible to love, serve and respect someone who you totally disagree with?  Is it possible to stand against an agenda that someone you know and love wholeheartedly supports without shattering the relationship or at the very least continue loving them?  Does love mean (as we are being told today) that we never rebuke? Does it mean that we have to approve and embrace everything someone does?

Paul gives us the key when he says in Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  
How does this help?  Because Paul shows us the distinction that the PERSON is different from the spirit/idea/philosophy/culture/etc. influencing them.  

It is not only ok, but it is right to continue to preach God's Truth in a world that is rejecting it.  There is still only ONE way, ONE truth and ONE life and that is through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  (Jn. 14:6) It is absolutely right to stand up and judge something wrong or evil if that is what God's Word says that it is, even if it offends or hurts someone's 'feelers.'  The warning Jesus gave about "Don't judge or you too will be judged" was followed by the words "with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you."  I'm ok with this!  I use God's Word, not self-righteousness or a sense of superiority.  In fact it is the "Measure" that every human in existence WILL be measured by. I'm a wreck in need of a Savior!  I fall upon His grace all the time! And by that grace I am slowly becoming more free and more like Him.  

We have permission to judge according to God's Word, because it is not the standard of our own selves or our own performance that we are using.  There is certainly the accompanying mandate to "Speak the truth in love..." (Eph. 4:15) We don't have to be insensitive jerks when taking a stand or disagreeing, but my whole point in this post is that it is not unloving to judge evil as evil. We are saying "This is what God says..." and then we love as we have been loved.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Marriage Sacred?

There's been a lot of attention on marriage the last few years. What it is, what it isn't and who has the rights to define such things.  So these are some of the random thoughts I have had lately on marriage from a biblical perspective (a little deeper than normal):  

From God came man.  From man came a woman by God's hand, and out of woman comes all men and women by the creative breath of God upon the union of seed from man and egg from woman. God is the originator and creator.  He is the one who continues to create and He is the One who holds it all together.  

When man and woman come together in marriage they are uniting two parts of a whole and God is the Witness and the bond that brings those things together and in Him they are made complete. Man and woman in themselves are not whole for they did not have their beginning in themselves, but God.  Two people coming together in their own power, design and bond are but shadows of what God has intended and walk in disobedience.  God cannot bless disobedience

The marriage ceremony in church honors what God has created.  It recognizes the sacredness of the creation of this institution and both submits to His authority as well as invites His blessing upon the union.  It invites witnesses who also honor God to share in the joy, to bless the new union and to hold this new couple accountable to their vows to one another and to God.  For their union is not about themselves only.  

Marriage reveals God's Triune nature.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Three are One.  Husband, Wife and God united make a whole.  From this unity comes creation and new life.  From this new life God's plan is revealed, fulfilled and carried on to future generations.  

This is God's plan.  We also live in a broken world of our own design and have made a mess of His creation.  Certainly there is grace to cover and re-cover because of the cross of Christ. However, grace is not license to redesign. Grace does not put us on the throne.  Marriage is not ours to do with as we please.  We are to orbit  around God's designs for He is the center of all things, not demand that He orbit around our designs as if we were.  The blood of Christ and the accompanying grace allow us to break free from the destruction of serving self and instead start building our lives upon God's plan that brings new life and blessing.  

So the problem we face as a society is who gets to define what marriage is?  Is it about us? Our feelings? Our attractions? Our design?  Or is it about the One who made us and the design of man and woman coming together in empowered unity with God Himself.

Marriage is the fundamental building blocks of a society...the family unit. It is the main intersection of the sacred and the secular within a society.  It is the wellspring from which all things will be determined.  Sacred? Yes.  Important? Absolutely.

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Attract Young People to Church


Sadly most churches think that the above image is the answer to the question of how to attract young people.  Not literally of course, but when they try to modernize a bit or go "contemporary" by putting out some muffins and coffee and maybe sing some newer songs, it is essentially the same thing as trying to put some hip clothes on grandpa and calling it change.  The answer is much more involved and harder.  Yes, many churches would benefit from some updated methodology, but before that happens you need to consider some things and ask some questions.  Read this article to gain some initial insight into what is needed.  (HINT: not just method change, but a whole new DNA of church culture)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Need Ears To Hear


Every time I have sought the Lord over the last several years concerning some difficult circumstances or needed direction I have heard Him say clearly only one thing.  I confess that every time He says it to me it frustrates me!  He doesn't tell me what I want to hear!!!  I am at times utterly perplexed and despairing (see 2 Cor 1:8).  I rant at Him "Just tell me what to do and I will do it!"  Ever been there?  

So what is it He keeps telling me?  "I am with you."  That's it!  I know, right?!?!  But maybe in my rantings and frustrations I am missing something. Maybe...just maybe, He is whispering to me the greatest thing that He could possibly say.  To know that I am not alone.  To know that I have not taken some wrong turn at some point.  To know that my Jesus Whom I love more than anything or anyone is with me...and He keeps having grace upon me to remind me of that.  After all the ways I have blown it.  All the times I have betrayed Him, disappointed Him...He is with me.  And if He is with me, then He loves me and is leading me whether I feel it or not.  He is holding me in His nail-scarred hands.  Shouldn't that be enough? After all, when I answered His call to "Preach the Gospel" my answer to Him was "Yes, as long as you're with me"  (Actually it was "HAHAHAHA, You're crazy or I am!  But if this is really You, then yes as long as you're with me")  Maybe He is simply reminding me of that moment of beginning over and over again.  How about that...while writing this I just thought of that. Heh. Cool.  He is with me.  It is enough.