Here’s a collection of New Years’ resolutions and reflections, courtesy of my friends at B.C., Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts, & Zits. It’s good to start and end the year with some laughter.
Monthly Archives: December 2019
One of the Christmas gifts I received was a book by Rick Reed, President of Heritage College and Seminary entitled, The Heart of the Preacher: Preparing Your Soul to Proclaim the Word. In the Foreword, Pastor Bryan Chappell introduces the concept of “heartload” as an explanation for pastoral burnout.
A decade ago, about thirty percent of all North American seminary graduates were leaving pastoral ministry within the first five years. It was assumed that the main reason was pastoral burnout—being “expected to work long hours to serve declining congregations with diminishing finances, weakening denominational commitments, lower biblical literacy, and smaller staffs.” While fatigue was certainly a factor, it was discovered that “workloads were not as damaging as ‘heartloads.’ The Moses factor that more and more preachers were facing was heavy workloads combined with a sense of being unappreciated for bearing them. It is one thing to feel the weigh of the burdens of ministry, but quite another to be blamed for the burdens.”
Chappell goes on to point out that it’s not just fatigue that leads to failure.
Good research over the last decade has disclosed that such factors are still at work in modern ministry. At the same time that pastors’ workloads have been increasing, they are easy-target explanations for the diminishing congregations, finances, and loyalties. Local preachers are increasingly compared to the master communicators on radio and the internet. As lessening denominational loyalties lead to increased church shopping and hopping, ministry are too often judged for their “effectiveness” rather than their faithfulness. As pastor respect diminishes throughout the culture for a variety of reasons, pastors and their families experience increased scrutiny and insecurity. Ministry seems increasingly dangerous, and ministers feel increasingly unappreciated.
Chappell concludes the foreword with a personal statement. “I know the pain of personal attack, the pressure to succeed, and the disappointment of not meeting others’ expectations. I know how bitterness can grow in me when complaints about me multiply in others.”
The sentiments expressed in the foreword certainly captured my attention as they resonate with my own experience. I look forward to reading the book and seeing what the author suggests as a means of strengthening my own heart.
A. W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Your view of God will determine how you worship God. If you view God as distant and uncaring, you will live life in your own power. If you view God as welcoming and caring, you will come into his presence and bring your concerns to him. If you view God as a judge who grades whether or not you obey his list of rules and regulations, you will seek to earn his approval through your performance. If you view God as a compassionate, you will draw near and desire to maintain a close relationship with him.
How you view God will determine how you worship him. That is the emphasis of the author of Hebrews in 12:18-29. Throughout his letter, the author of this book has portrayed the superiority of Jesus Christ. He has also warned his readers not to forsake Christ and return to the rules and regulations of the Old Testament Law. Both elements are evident in the end of chapter 12. He paints a contrast between two ways of worship (18-24) and emphasizes that worship through a relationship with Christ is better than anything the Old Testament offered. He also issues a final warning not to turn away from God and return to the Law (25-29). His point is that because of the blessings of the new covenant, we should worship God with reverence and fear.
Your view of God will determine how you worship him (18-24). The author uses Mount Sinai and Mount Zion to contrast two approaches to worship.
|Mount Sinai||Mount Zion|
|Motivation||The fear of the Law||
The grace of the Gospel
View of God
|Basis for worship||Rules & regulations||
Verses 18-21 paints a vivid picture of the physical display of God’s power and glory when the Law was given on Mount Sinai. The people were so thoroughly awed that they stayed away and did not want to hear God speak. Even Moses feared and trembled!
Verses 22-24 paints a much more welcoming picture. Believers can worship God in full fellowship and joy. In heave, “you have come to”: (1) the city of God; (2) angels; (3) fellow believers; (4) God the Judge; (5) Old Testament believers; (6) Jesus: and (7) forgiveness because of Jesus’ sprinkled blood.
Our perspective of God will affect our approach to worship. We will avoid a god who keeps us at arm’s length and passes judgment. We will come close with great joy to a God who offers us a relationship based on grace.
We are to worship God in reverence and fear (25-29). Throughout his letter, the author of Hebrews has contrasted the superiority of Christ with a series of warnings not to walk away from him. This is the last of five warning passages in the book.
|2:1-4||“Pay attention lest you drift!”|
|3:7-4:13||“Beware of a hard heart!”|
|5:11-6:20||“Don’t stray from the path of spiritual growth!”|
|10:19-39||“Stand firm in the faith or be judged by God!”|
|12:25-29||“Don’t turn away from him!”|
The author gives two instructions in this section—Obey God and Worship God! When God is speaking, we had best listen. If God punished Israel when they didn’t obey, how much more will he deal with us if we reject him (25). Because we have an unshakeable kingdom, and because is a consuming fire, we should worship him with reverence and fear (26-29).
Our view of God will determine how we worship him. Because of who God is and what he has done, we are to obey him and worship him with reverence and fear.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 29, 2019. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Happy anniversary to my wife, best friend, ministry partner, and lover. 39 years is too short a time to be married to your best friend.
39 years ago today, we stood before God, family, and friends and pledged ourselves to each other with the simple words, “I do!” Who knew the twists and turns our journey would take? Who knew where God would lead us and what he would do in and through us?
We’ve gone from SoCal to Western MA, with stops in Dallas, TX; Anaheim, CA; Wheaton, IL; Moreno Valley, CA; Bellevue, WA; Redmond, WA; Sammamish, WA; and now Chicopee, MA. We’ve served Christ at churches small, big, and in between in Wheaton, Bellevue, Seattle, and Chicopee. We’ve ministered to children, youth, adults, men, and women. We’ve traveled up and down the West Coast, across the States, visited London, Oxford, Edinburgh, and New Zealand. We’ve led ministry teams to Toral and Malaga, Spain; Moscow, Tsibanobalka, and Anapa, Russia. We’ve celebrated graduations and weddings, mourned at funerals, seen our children grow to maturity, and encouraged each other through rehab. We’ve ridden the roller coaster of “richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.” We’ve experienced, benefited from, and enjoyed the grace of God through the ups and downs and twists and turns of life over the years and across the miles.
May God grant us many more years to serve him together!
Carol, Jonathan, and I spent the day in Newport, Rhode Island. We toured four of the Newport Mansions–The Breakers, Marble House, Rosecliff, and The Elms–which are decorated for Christmas. The mansions are beautiful, opulent, and provide an inside look into America’s history. We enjoyed a late lunch at The White Horse Tavern, the oldest restaurant in the USA, which has served meals continuously since 1673. It was a good day to explore one corner of New England.