Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Reformation Day 2013!

Today Protestant Christians celebrate what has been labeled as Reformation Day. A good summary of it can be found here

Currently, I am preaching through Galatians in my congregation, which was a book so instrumental in Martin Luther’s theology of the Reformation. To honor his work, I wanted to share a quote from him as he reflects on Galatians 3:27 and the phrase “have put on Christ” (the quote was found in his Second Lectures in Galatians):  

“To put on Christ is not a matter of imitation but of new birth and new creation. We have not just changed our clothes in the outward sense but become entirely new people”

I am thankful for how Christ-centered the Reformation was and how Luther encourages Christians to consider their new identity in Christ. God brought about something new in the year 1517 by his Spirit in the church. The same Spirit is at work today to bring about newness in Christ and reformation in our lives.

Happy Reformation Day 2013!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pastor's Wife Appreciation Month

The month of October has been traditionally designated as Pastor Appreciation Month. This is a time when churches somehow thank their pastor for his service. It is a nice idea, and I appreciate the words of encouragement that come from my congregation. But I would gladly trade it for a Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month.

I’ve heard that John D. Rockefeller once said that without his wife he would have been a poor man. The honest pastor will have similar words about his wife. Without her he would be a “poor man” in a pastoral sense or may not be a pastor at all.

Here are a few things that I realize about my wife, that without her I would be a “poor man” when it comes to ministry.

1. My wife helped me get through schooling so I could serve the church. She agreed to the Ph.T. program (putting husband through). In college she worked full-time so I could go to class full-time. In seminary she took care of our three children while I worked two jobs and chipped away at my M.Div. These degrees were for the purpose of serving the church in the future and my wife did all she could to help me get through. This does not even count in all of the financial sacrifice we had to make during those days, which she never complained about.  Pastors and churches should appreciate the sacrifice that many wives made in the days of preparation.

2. My wife helped me take my first call. My first full-time pastorate call was over 1,000 miles from our family and in a small town that can have some harsh winters.  My wife has always demonstrated the “go wherever” mentality when it comes to ministry. Without her support, I would never have made it to northwest Iowa to serve my first church. Pastors and churches should appreciate the sacrifice that many wives made to be serving in a certain locality.

3. My wife helps me to love the church. A wife will either be a help or hindrance in ministry. My wife is a great help. She has a positive outlook on the church even on the worse days. She eagerly serves where God has gifted her. She avoids bitterness when things are sour and does not repay evil for evil. These are all essential character traits. She demonstrates a love and commitment to our church.

The ministry is one of the few vocations where having a supportive wife is essential. If a plumber or investor has a wife who is not too crazy about his job, he can still get by and earn a living. This is not true in the pastorate. An unsupportive wife will kill the husband’s ministry and possibly the church.

The takeaway from this is for both pastors and churches. As pastors, we need to be sure our wives know how much we appreciate their sacrifice and love for the church. They need to know how essential their positive role is in our lives and how we deeply appreciate it.

Churches also need to realize how much of a sacrifice that the pastor’s wife makes. The wife has often agreed to go wherever her husband has been called to. The wife often has agreed with her husband to voluntarily take a low-paying job in the non-profit world for the rest of their lives to serve Christ. The wife stands by her husband during times of deep discouragement and often helps support his faith so he can persevere. The truth is, without the support of the wife, many churches would not have their pastor today.

So as I said earlier, I would gladly trade this month for a Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tornados and Teachable Moments

On Friday about a dozen tornados ripped through parts of Nebraska and Iowa close to us.  We were having our Friday family fun night—on Friday evening our family routine is to have homemade pizza, play games, and watch a movie as a family. Nothing, except for an extreme emergency, is supposed to interrupt our Friday family fun night. We agree to regularly fight to guard this time. So the Ipad and cell phones go into another room and we enjoy the relationships that God has given us as family. As it turns out, a tornado warning falls under the “extreme emergency” category and our evening got interrupted briefly this this past Friday.  

What stood out to me was the way my older children responded to the situation. At about 7:20pm the tornado sirens went off in our town.  The kids asked if it was real and we told them yes, we need to get to the basement fast. This was a warning which means that a tornado has touched down and is imminent.  

There was initial panic at first, but after things settled down (at this point I broke the Ipad rule and grabbed it to check the Doppler radar and updates from the Sheriff) my kids, led by my oldest son, suggested that we pray. What I found remarkable is that they knew, almost instinctively, that when there is a crisis, as a family we pray to God who is bigger than the crisis.  They were communicating that God is greater than the tornado. So here was a moment in real life where they were affirming the truth that God is sovereign and we can trust him in any and every circumstance.

Now I hope for my children that prayer becomes a very real and vital part of their lives as they mature. I hope prayer goes far beyond the moment of a crisis. Far too many people only look to God in a moment of crisis. When things are good, they go on living independent of him. I hope that this is not what we model in our family. We have tried as a family to model prayer both in times of crisis and during times of happiness so they get a balanced picture of what it looks like to pray daily.

But this was a good teachable moment for my kids and they did well. I encouraged them with that as we retuned back upstairs to finish our movie. But before the movie began, we gave God thanks for his protection and hearing our prayers. All glory to him. Tornados can be teachable moments.