Thanking NPC

What Has Been

Sunday evening, May 31, 2015, at the Congregational Meeting:

Kara and her family have been here for 30 years, I have been a part of the church for almost 20. We have been repeatedly blessed and encouraged by our time here. We have grown and been challenged in so many ways. With you we have shared common meals, classes, time serving alongside you. We have enjoyed coffees, beers and bottles of wine with you. We have cooked out, dined out, swung golf clubs, shot clay targets, led growth groups and bible studies, served in ministry areas, held babies, retreated and mission-tripped, licked envelopes, painted walls, done dishes, dug ditches, plunged toilets and grilled innumerable burgers and dogs. It has been sweet to be with you.

IMG_6570

I have been to emergency rooms and hospital bedsides, ICUs and birthing units, tended flesh wounds and broken bones. I have officiated marriages, led funerals for young and old, administered the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I have wept with you, laughed with you (and sometimes at you). I have prayed with many of you about church vision, finances, shepherding and care, against disease and for the faith of the ones we love. I have sough to serve this community well, in as much as my experience and wisdom permitted, and by God’s grace you have been kind to receive it.

All the while, there are countless to-do items in my phone that will likely never be addressed. There are conversations and notes and emails that I wish I had written, that I fully intended to write and send, but that I have not. I have failed many of you in following through, or praying faithfully. Some of you I have sinned against and you have kindly offered your forgiveness. In spite of the shortcomings, God has tenderly used us in his call to kingdom work, he has been gracious. I am grateful for your mercy and grace, thank you for your charitable response to me and my family in all these things.

Thank You

Kara and I, more than anything wanted to say thank you. You have been generous to us, you have prayed for us, encouraged us, forgiven us. You have watched our family grow, you have been in our home and we in yours, we have prayed for each other’s myriad needs, we encouraged each other to keep the faith, reminded each other of the promises of the gospel. We are grateful for you.

We thank you for your care for our kids. You have invested in our kids as teachers and coaches, mentors and guides. You have treated the kids like any other children in the church, for which I am grateful. Allowing them to be kids and to say and do “kid things,” not just “pastor’s kid things.” They have learned that the church is a loving gospel-community and a loving-gospel community, because of you. You have offered babysitting, teaching, care, ministry and friendship. You have provided a place for the gospel to grow in them.

I will not name anyone for the sake of missing someone who has blessed me (us), who has sacrificed for us or with us, who has made the effort to encourage us, who has served alongside us. Over the years, pastors, elders, deacons, staff, lay leaders, youth and children have brought us life and joy. There are too many stories, too many places and people, too much history to try to account for. You are friends, partners, loved ones. 

In short, your faithfulness to the Lord has strengthened us. We are thankful to God that he has put you into our lives, thankful for the work he has done. I can’t imagine saying anything else, nor is anything really appropriate after so many years: Thank you for showing us the gospel.

I humbly ask that you would show it to the next pastor and his family. Welcome him, get to know him and his family. Pray for them, pray for his heart and character, pray that you would be open to listen and hear his heart for Christ, and to partner with him him ministry as you have for me and Chris, the session, deacons and staff. 

Advertisements

Grace

The cost for the recipient of God’s grace is NOTHING—and no price could be higher for arrogant people to pay. Something within me (that feels noble) longs for a religion that requires payment. I may like an occasional free gift, but I cannot bear the loss of pride and swagger that occurs when I give my life and nothing is required. Grace is free, and that is disturbing. –Dan Allender, “Bold Love”

Gospel-Transformation for the Angry Man

One of man’s creation mandates is to rule and subdue the earth, to have dominion. With our sinful bent, this becomes not a call to stewarding what God has given to us and a humble response to Him, but an unruly desire to dominate all of life, whether work or relationships. Instead of a desire to willingly serve God, our desire becomes self-inflamed, we long for control and domination, to succeed and to conquer, to demand from others and raise expectations for ourselves and those we influence and create a world in which we are king.

What happens to many men in the course of their plans and desire for strength and competence, to find beauty and peace, or to convince or control is a regular bout with frustration and disappointment. As the poet Robert Burns put it so well, “the best laid schemes of mice and men, often go a askew.” The result is the angry man, the controlling father, the relentless boss, a stressed out, irritable husband. I recognize this in my own life as I lash out at others when I don’t get my way, when I turn inward and work harder, faster and longer hours than ever.

I desire strength, competence, reputation, the accolade and approval of others in my life, family, ministry and the onlooking world. When these things are threatened, tarnished or unseen I feel angry, I feel a loss and want to grab it back, hold tightly to it and reclaim it. I fear that without this thing, I will be seen as less, weak, broken, incompetent… heaven forbid that I should decrease and He should increase (John 3:30).

Gospel-transformation happens when I repent of my sinful desire for control, and instead, humbly welcome the ways in which God leads me and forms me into the likeness of Christ. My gospel-transformation welcomes the people, places, circumstances even objects of my life as tools in the loving hand of my Dad to transform me, to bring me into spiritual maturity.

He is the master craftsman of my life. Do I trust him?

the Man in the Mirror

Preaching this weekend on James 1:19-27

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.

I have two shaving mirrors that I use when I travel or workout at the gym. One is a fancy folding mirror made of real glass I bought years ago. The other is a flimsy plastic mirror that is relatively cloudy and scratched. In one mirror I can see all my blemishes and stray whiskers, in the other I can barely discern that I still have a face.

When we look into the mirror of God’s Word, we need to embrace it as a true, reliable, high quality mirror, telling us truth about ourselves, our world and our God. If we don’t trust its accuracy and welcome what it says about several things: 1. our sinful state, 2. our need for the impenetrable love of the Father in Christ through the Spirit, 3. and what true Christian living looks like–we deceive ourselves (and according to James) our religion is useless.

Lesser mirrors like pop psychology, the culture, or our sinful nature will tell us precious little about our truest need and hope, they will merely reveal that we “still have a face.” May this not be true of us, may we look intently into this word of truth—which can save our souls—that it may shape us and form us into Christlikeness.

Experiential Religion

Dane, thank you for posting this from John Owen. Fantastic:

“What am I the better if I can dispute that Christ is God, but have no sense of sweetness in my heart from hence that he is a God in covenant with my soul? What will it avail me to evince (reveal), by testimonies and arguments, that he hath made satisfaction for sin, if through my unbelief, the wrath of God abideth on me, and I have no experience of my own being made the righteousness of God in him–if I find not, in my standing with God, the excellency of having my sins imputed to him and his righteousness imputed to me? Will it be any advantage to me to profess and dispute that God works the conversion of a sinner by the irresistible grace of his Spirit, if I was never acquainted experimentally with the deadness and utter impotency to good, that opposition to the law of God, which is in my own soul by nature, with the efficacy of the exceeding greatness of the power of God in quickening, enlightening, and bringing forth the fruits of obedience in me?

It is the power of truth in the heart alone that will make us cleave unto it indeed in an hour of temptation. Let us, then, not think that we are anything the better for our conviction of the truths of the great doctrines of the gospel, for which we contend with these men, unless we find the power of the truths abiding in our own hearts, and have a continual experience of their necessity and excellency in our standing before God and our communion with him.”

–John Owen, Works, 12:52

Jesus Loves Me, This I’m Learning

I want to fix me and others in my life. I think I know better in regard to them for what they are supposed to do. In regard to me, I want to be fixed so I stop sinning as I hurt others and as I dishonor God. I think I am learning that being fixed is not what we are invited to. In talking with more and more older men, I am realizing that they all still struggle in many ways, they are not fixed, they are still undone. Sometimes the brokenness is the same way they have struggled for years: anger, control, lust, indifference, unbelief and so much more. They are living in the tension of brokenness, being pulled by their sin and their love of God.

I think that dependent middle is what I am realizing that I must embrace. Being dependent on him for all things, for forgiveness, for power to live and love, for conquering and hating sin, and knowing it will never be “finished” this side of heaven. There is always more, one more moment, one more opportunity, another day, another chance to repent of my sin. However, I am not a joyful repenter, most often I am an ashamed and guit-ridden repenter. I have a hard time believing that God welcomes me back after my repeated sins, or where in my experience I don’t feel that I am gaining holy ground (can you hear the perfectionist do-er in me?!).

Then again even as I write I am reminded of how much I want my daughters to repent to me, especially willingly and humbly. I know how ready I am to receive them when they do, and even when they only understand just a portion of their sin. Then I am reminded of Matthew as I look at myself, the broken, sinful dad who knows how to give good gifts to his kids, how much more does God in heaven our perfect Father desire to give us good things? Matthew 7 has been repeating in my mind over and over again these weeks.

God calls me to repeatedly offer forgiveness, 70×7 he says (Matthew 18:22). How could he ask me to do that if he was not willing to do the very same thing on my behalf and toward others with whom I interact? Is he not holy, perfect, loving and willing to forgive over and over again in relation to him?! I can therefore learn to repent quickly and readily, with joy knowing that he offers forgiveness to me instead of repenting ashamedly and with resistance thinking he might not welcome me back this time… and then, in my realtionships with others, I can offer that forgiveness and reconciliation because God has already perfectly done that for me in the person of Jesus.

Praise be to God.