Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Because God is Merciful

You all know the old Sunday School joke: “If you don’t know the answer, say Jesus and you will probably be right.” I have been thinking of a new spin on that . . .

Because there are an awful lot of times when I, as a pastor, do not know the answer to a question posed to me. This is when I get asked “Why?” Why did this happen? Why is this happening to me? Why did God do that? I have no answer to those questions. God has not revealed it to us. So I think from now on I’m going to have a stock answer. Why? Because God is merciful.

I’m not sure what started me down that road, but this is growing on me. In all the “why times” in my life and the life of my parishioners, the beauty of this answer is that it focuses us not on ourselves (which will only drive us to despair) but on God and what good He is working. Thus the Law is merciful because it drives me to the Gospel. Suffering is merciful as it causes me to despair of myself and take refuge in Christ alone. Whatever is going on in my life, how is my God and Saviour being merciful to me, a poor, miserable sinner, through it? We still may not know the answer, but at least we’d be looking in the right place.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Good Reminder

I am reading Eugene Peterson's Under the Unpredictable Plant - he uses the story of Jonah to explore the work of pastoral ministry and what he calls "vocational holiness." Got to this quote:

One final note of grace, for there is a happy ending to this. The wonderful, gracious surprise here is that in both movements in Jonah's life, the disobedient and the obedient, God used him to save the people.

In Jonah's escapist disobedience the sailors in the ship prayed to the Lord and entered into a life of faith: "Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows" (1:16).

In Jonah's angry obedience, the Ninevites were all saved: "When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and did not do it" (3:10).

We never do get a picture of the kind of pastor we want to be in this story, but only of the kind of pastor we in fact are. Putting the mirror up to us and showing us our double failure would be a severe and unbearable burden if it were not for this other dimension in the story - that God works his purposes through who we actually are, our rash disobedience and our heartless obedience, and generously uses our lives as he finds us to do his work.

He does it in such a way that it is almost impossible for us to take credit for any of it, but also in such a way that somewhere along the way we gasp in surprised pleasure at the victories he accomplishes, on the sea and in the city, in which we have our strange Jonah part.

I guess the part that struck me was about never getting a picture of the kind of pastor we want to be, just the one we are. Warts, shortcomings, failings, confusion, escapist disobedience and angry obedience and all. Why did God call Jonah? Why did He call me? Grace. What else could it be? And whatever He accomplishes through me is all by grace too. What a wonder.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Back from Vacation

Well, my body is at least. Now if I could just get my mind to come back as well . . . :-)

It was a great two weeks of getting away from everything and spending time with my family. I got to read three books: two on submarine warfare during WWII (my son's interest in submarines has gotten me interested) and Jeff Shaara's book "Gods and Generals" about the Civil War. I have read a couple of his books now and highly recommend them. They are best categorized as "historical novels" and are highly readable and educational.

Thanks Rad for hosting us at the beach one day! If you ever want a great beach vacation, go to Folly Beach in Charleston. The sand is nice, the water warm, and the surf active and fun. Lots of other things to do in Charleston as well. And good eatin'!

Now back to the real world . . .

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Not that I post all that regularly here, but I will be on vacation for the next two weeks with my family. No computer or internet - just relaxing and having fun. If you don't hear from me in two weeks, then I've gone on permanent holiday! ;-)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Lesson Learned

When e-mails get lost in cyberspace and do not arrive as expected, do not get short with your secretary - it's not her fault. Thanks be to God there is forgiveness for pastors! And thanks be to God for the Christ-like example of forgiveness my secretary is to me. She is two in a million (my wife is the other one in a million!) :-)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


December 2009 Portals of Prayer signed, sealed, and delivered. One more thing off my plate before vacation! :-)

Issues, Etc - Advice

Yes, Issues, Etc was back on the air yesterday after (as they phrased it) a prolonged "Spring Break!" Welcome back! I post here only to give some advice: if you are going to try to listen to the live online streaming audio, log on early! Connect during the first hour (3 pm ET) because so many folks tried to connect for the second hour that the limited bandwidth they have right now couldn't handle it. Hopefully they will be able to add to their capabilities in the near future. I was able to listen yesterday, and it was good to hear them back. I look forward to listening as I am able.