You are a Wild Donkey in Heat

Sloppy wetI’m fairly certain we prefer a sanitized Bible.

I’m even more certain we prefer sanitized worship songs.

This morning we sang that epic wave-making worship limerick by John Mark McMillan: “so heaven meets earth, like a sloppy wet kiss…” and those leading the singing belted out the line with gusto. I was happy to join them. Most in the congregation probably were not. Even the projected words read the softened text: “like an unforeseen kiss”. Bo-ring!

The original simile is intentionally at once both striking and messy. It well describes the impassioned, all-in in-breaking of heaven on earth. Its the one I prefer. And its hard to sing. But I want to sing it because it reminds me of the many strange and powerful, disturbing and poignant poems of Scripture. Hey, I’m an Old Testament guy, so I don’t have the leisure to study safe texts.

Like this one from my morning devotional reading (just before heading to church and singing “like a sloppy wet kiss”):

“How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
    I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
    consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
    running here and there,
a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
    sniffing the wind in her craving—
    in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
    at mating time they will find her.” (Jeremiah 2:23-24 NIV)

Where is the song we sing about being “a wild donkey…in her heat”? By the way, I’m not really wanting to sing that one and thankfully it was not written to be sung (at least I hope not). Yet there it is…right in our nice little Bibles. And here we are…called to confess such as the word of the LORD (“Thanks be to God”).

How should we express such imagery in song? Are we only to sing songs our “sensibilities” welcome? Is there room in the Church to embrace such divine provocations?

A Dirty Secret About Me

Here it is…

Wait for it…Secret

I LOVE pastoring and I love my congregation and I love my community!  Okay.  So that isn’t “dirty,” nor a “secret,” but it is about me. :-)  I have found too often when speaking with pastors in an intimate setting that they either don’t love pastoring, or their church, or their community (or all of the above).  This is a sad state of affairs and my word to them is, “Get out of the ministry, because you aren’t doing anyone a favor by continuing.” Too often a pastor will remain a pastor just because that’s what they do and they don’t know what else to do.  I do go on to tell such “pastors” that they need to either quit their churches or find God’s love for what they are, where they are and what they are doing.

On the other hand, I meet pastors who genuinely enjoy what they are doing and could never see themselves doing anything else.  They love the folks who gather with them in worship, discipleship and mission.  They even love their community.  It’s a beautiful thing to behold…and I am encouraged by such faithful ministers of the good news.

So I guess I just wanted to share that “dirty secret about me”.  I really do love what I do, where I am…and even who I am (warts and all)!

[originally blogged July 12, 2012 at bluechippastor.org]

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As an update, I also LOVE teaching at Trinity now three years after I first blogged this. Just in case anyone missed that in my status updates over the last two years. ;-)

The Suffering Pastor

No thanks, Matthew Mason.  I don’t want to “fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24).  I want my best life now. (Crying like a baby)

Er…I guess actually I don’t.  What I really want is to be conformed to Christ.  To follow Him in His life here and now.  To serve Him and His Church faithfully with His all surpassing love that does not look away from suffering, but embraces it with hands and feet scarred, with head beaten and bloodied, with the wounds of a back bearing the world’s rejection.  Make me like you Jesus…even though it will (and must) hurt.

[originally blogged June 19, 2012 at bluechippastor.org]

Holiness with a Body

As I prepared to take my congregation through the book of Leviticus I came upon this marvelous quote:

“As revealed in Leviticus, the holy is not an abstract, metaphysical concept hanging in thin air.  Rather it is the essential quality that gives eternal meaning to serving Yahweh.  The call to become holy like God affects every dimension of life.  This call captivates the imagination and like a gyroscope directs one’s longing for purpose toward life in Yahweh’s presence.  While the demands of holy living are overwhelming, the promise of God’s presence empowering his people encourages pursuit of the call.  A holy life is a blessed life, a life of personal growth, and a life of meaning and joy.  It is a life lived in communion with the Holy God.” (John E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC 4; Dallas, TX: Word, 1992], lxiii).

I was struck by the concreteness of holiness (as opposed to how we as Protestants have made it primarily spiritualized but not Spirit embodied).  I am thoroughly looking forward to our study of this life-giving book of Scripture.  What are your thoughts on the concreteness of holiness and its relation to a “life lived in communion with the Holy God”?

[Originally blogged on May 31, 2012 at bluechippastor.org]

Tooting Our Horns

MoneyAs I’ve been preparing for my message for Sunday morning, I have been meditating on Matthew 6:1-18.  This passage speaks to certain testimonies of righteous living: giving, praying, and fasting.

It is notable that each of these are introduced by speaking against these deeds as practiced by the “hypocrites” (which at any moment might be any of us).  It is far too easy to do things to be seen by others and receive some public honor through doing this.

In particular, it is rather striking in this day and age how few people appear to want to be secretly generous with what God has given them. We design our charitable programs to publicly name benefactors, but what I was wondering…have we simply made our righteousness a business transaction instead of a love-filled act for God and others?  Have we done nothing more than provide something for  being generous (despite what our charitable contribution receipts specifically have to note)?  Has our “generosity” degenerated into nothing more than a transaction to purchase a good name?

Lord, help me to give secretly knowing you see all that is done in secret and you will indeed reward me, and to not give to receive the passing praise of others but to receive the enduring reward from your hand.

[originally blogged on May 30, 2012 at bluechippastor.org]

Enjoying Worship

GivingThis evening as I was preparing for my Bible Study group, when I happened upon a quote by G. H. Mallone (Furnace of Renewal: A Vision for the Church, Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1981, pp.51-52) concerning the oft heard question, “Did you enjoy the worship service today?”  His well worded reply to the apparently self-serving orientation of such a question was, “Whether we enjoy it or not, are comfortable or not, are built up or not, none of these areas is a sufficient criterion for measuring worship.  Rather, the test of any worship should be, ‘What did God receive from it? What did I put into it? Did God enjoy the worship? Was he pleased by the sacrifice of our praise and our service? Or was he discontent because our wills, emotions and intellects were disengaged in the process?'”

[originally published on bluechippastor.org May 15, 2012]

Pastoring Your Spouse

pastors wifeIt is always a difficult thing to be your family’s only pastor. As if it weren’t difficult enough in relation to your children, you also are given the care of your spouse. In this regard, my wife is gone for two days to a minister’s spouse retreat with others in the same life-setting. I find this to be an invaluable ministry to help meet some of her social and spiritual needs. I realize that there needs to be others speaking into her life and that she needs time away from the children to be refreshed and enjoy the friendships of other women who’s husbands serve the church. This is one of those get-aways that I have strongly supported from the beginning as part of my pastoral (and husbandly) care of my wife. So what do you do as a pastor to care for the needs of your spouse?

[originally blogged at bluechippastor.org on May 15, 2012]

The Discipline of Prayer Retreat

Jesus took his disciples away from the crowds to be alone with them…in prayer and fellowship…and he also went alone to be with His Father. (Luke 9:28; Matthew 14:23)

This week I traveled to a neighboring town to spend a day in prayer and fasting with some pastors from the region. It was refreshing to offer prayers for each other and know there are others who take their responsibility as a pastor seriously enough to gather for such a thing. I find these “retreats” to be essential to my well-being and success as a pastor.

Just a few years ago I was feeling the wear and tear of ministry and needing to find a place for retreat. My wife and I had searched online for any possible places where I could take a few days and that would not cost a lot. As it turns out the seminary I was attending would let me stay for a very reasonable price. They housed me in a small dorm where I was the only one staying. No T.V. No music. No internet. Just the solace of the few books I brought with me (including my Bible), a laptop for writing and some basic food stuffs. It became my “monastery” for spiritual retreat and I have often found great refreshment as I prayed and studied there.

In other words, I’ve had to discover (and re-discover) the strength and renewing of such times of retreat…both with others and alone. Lord, teach me to pray and find my daily provision in the hand of your Father.

[originally blogged at bluechippastor.org May 12, 2012]

Resurrection of a Blog

Perhaps this is a bit selfish of me, but I am resurrecting posts to this blog over the next few weeks that were from another blog. I just realized that I was potentially losing a number of blog posts from a now sadly defunct co-authored blog (bluechippastor.org) that I thought should perhaps be shared and preserved. That blog was a tremendous contribution (in my estimation) for pastors by pastors and I am deeply grateful to Dan Thompson (and the numerous others who contributed) for sharing this blog for several years. Thus I will be posting my old posts from that site in order to not lose them and perhaps offer aid to those who might further benefit from them. These ran from May 2012-July 2014 and are dated according to their original publication.

Gordon Anderson on Eschatology

Gordon AndersonThe following hour long audio is from the Minnesota Assemblies of God Family Camp 2015. Dr. Gordon Anderson (president of North Central University) spoke to the topic of eschatology and offered a perspective that it would be well for more in the Assemblies of God to embrace. He briefly covers the history of dispensationalism and its impact on the A/G as well as offering anecdotal accounts typical of those raised under dispensational teaching (my own story being quite similar).

I personally found his approach to be both biblical and confessionally sound. He ends with a call to all ministers in particular to preach Jesus in preaching eschatology instead of preaching timelines, exposing numbers and beasts, etc. His teaching was a refreshing word not often heard in our camp meetings, but all too necessary. I have preached and taught many of the same things, but was greatly encouraged to hear another doing likewise.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

(HERE is an MP3 version for download as well)

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