Balance in Your Life?

Thom Rainer has posted an article written by Mike Glenn titled “Balance is Bunk.” In it he explains that there will never be balance to your life. This is something that I have been asking regularly since I accepted my role as associate pastor in Cheyenne. How do I maintain order in my life when my job is my life? When I leave church I spend time with people from church. When I’m not at church I’m thinking about and praying through issues going on at church. When it’s my day off I’m still spending time with people from church. When I go on vacation, I still hear about what’s going on at the church. It never ends! I’m grateful that during this season of stumbling around figuring out how I can best serve in this role, I have 2 other godly men speaking truth into my life and encouraging me to take the time I need. Right now I can make the church my entire focus, but what about when I get married? What happens when I have kids? Then my priorities would need to shift.

I appreciate what Mike said in his article, “Here’s the hard reality. All of us have multiple priorities. Each of these priorities has multiple and competing demands. Not only that, but most of these demands are mutually exclusive.” We can’t continue to please everyone, and we shouldn’t try to please everyone. There is 1 person we should work to please and as we work to please him, the other priorities will fall in to place.

I just started reading ‘What Did You Expect?” by Paul David Tripp. In it he says the only way to have a great marriage is to line up the vertical relationship first and make that the number 1 priority. If the vertical relationship to God is your primary focus, the horizontal relationship with your spouse will fall into place as the love and grace God has so graciously extended to your pours out into your relationship with your spouse. I think it’s the same thing with the church. If your vertical relationship with God is in the right place, that will flow out into the way you conduct your job in the church and the priorities will fall in to place. This does mean that at times you’re going to let people down but remember who you’re working to please, not man, but God.

Questions a Worship Planner Should Ask

Jared Wilson has posted a blog titled “6 Questions Worship Service Planner Should Ask” on The Gospel Coalition website. He asks some very helpful things that should be regularly asked for those of use who plan a worship service on a regular basis. I think the most important question that should be asked that Jared has in his list is the 5 one: Does this element exalt God or man? So many times people take church to be for and about them instead of the one who created them. All of us are incredibly selfish people who will stop coming to a church when it stops fulfilling our wants and desires. Only when we have the vertical (God) component correctly in place can we start to get the horizontal (man/ourselves) component to work the way it is intended to work.

One other question I would add to this list is: What is the history of this element? Is it something that needs to be redefined for people or will everyone understand why it’s being included? One example I can think of is meditation, which might be difficult for someone who had recently become a Christian from a Hindu or Buddhist background. How would we explain that moment to them and would we need to help them understand why we’re doing that?

Chronological Snobbery

I’ve been reading a book called ‘The Narnian‘ that is about the life of C.S. Lewis. It’s been an interesting journey into Lewis’ life from his young life through his adult years and I have just reached the point where he became a Christian. (interesting side note, we have 1 remaining recording of Lewis’ voice reading what would eventually become ‘Mere Christianity’ that you can hear here.)

One of the things Lewis was most concerned about was the way he saw his students completely dismissing anything people from history said. I’ve talked a couple times on this blog before about the importance of remembering where we’ve come from, and this book reminded me again of how important it is to maintain perspective. Lewis called this “chronological snobbery” where because we now know that the earth revolves around the sun we dismiss anything said or written during the middle ages because they believed the sun revolved around the earth. We should not be so quick the throw the baby out with the bath water, but instead should look at what they wrote that was good and see how it applies to our lives and times today. Lewis said of the old books, “The great books of the past, then, if we read them properly and carefully, can be mirrors into which we see the sins and limitations of our own period.” This especially goes for the Bible too. No, the Bible writers didn’t know of molecules and planets and cells like we do, but God used them in their time and their place to write down his very Words. Let’s not be so quick to dismiss any thoughts from history, but instead weigh them carefully in light of our own generations blind spots.

A Year in Ministry

I recently passed the 1 year mark of my time serving at Cheyenne Evangelical Free Church and what a year it has been! God has continued to challenge and stretch me in ways I never thought possible. I’m so grateful for my time here and am looking forward to the years God continues to give me here.

With a year under my belt I thought I’d share a few of the things I’d learned in the past year. This won’t be an all inclusive list, but rather a few key things that have seemed to continue to pop up.

  1. Schooling will never prepare you for all the challenges you will face in ministry. I’d always heard that ministry would be difficult and they were so right, but I had no idea how much of blessing being in ministry would be. There have been times of difficulty and times of immense joy. From mourning the loss of a church member to rejoicing with one of the half dozen families who welcomed a new baby into the church.
  2. Ministry would be so easy if it weren’t for the people. Like it or not, the people are the ones you are called to serve. Despite frustrating you and keeping you up late, they are you brothers and sisters in Christ, which ties into the next point:
  3. Remember who you serve. You need to keep a vertical perspective throughout your ministry. You’ll never be able to please everyone (as I have so quickly learned with music) so remember ultimately you are serving God.
  4. Give thanks. As the song “Blessed Be Your Name” so aptly puts, remember to give everything back to God, both the blessings and the challenges. Apart from God our ministries would fall apart.
  5. Get perspective. As a young man it’s very easy to criticize and complain about the ways things are being done because they’re not trendy or cool anymore. It’s incredibly important to remember that there is history to this thing called the church. It’s been around a lot longer than we have and will continue to be around long after we’re here. Don’t lose perspective of your time and place.
  6. Pray. Praying needs to be first and foremost in your mind. I felt like this was almost too emphasized but I’ve learned you can’t emphasize it enough.

I have the joy of serving with 2 other incredibly godly men, as well as a father who is only a phone call away for advice and council. This past year I’ve gotten to help lead the youth group, lead music on a weekly basis, start a Bible study for our music team, preach, teach an Adult Bible Fellowship, teach a Sunday School, help put on a VBS, play with 2 year olds and have a meal with 70 year olds and through it all I pray God was glorified in and through and despite me. I’m so grateful for a church that encourages me as a stumble toward maturity and pray for faithfulness in the many years ahead.

A Higher Calling

I recently wrote about my frustration with the song ‘Precious Puritans’ by Propaganda. Many other people have written similarly about it voicing the same frustations. Well today I’m going to follow a similar vein and look back at history again. So many times we view many of our church fathers through rose colored glasses, refusing to acknowledge or think about their shortcomings. One such example is John Wesley. Many people remember his brother Charles Wesley for the many hymns he wrote, such as “And Can It Be” “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” One area many people fail to look at is a marriage. John Wesley’s marriage was terrible! If a pastor is unable to treat his wife the way Christ treats the church then that man shouldn’t be preaching. I realize that no one today is perfect, but a Christian man is called to lovingly and sacrificially give everything for his wife. This is of utmost importance. You can read more about Wesley’s failed marriage here.  So what does this mean for single people like me? It means preparing yourself to give yourself to your, Lord willing, spouse someday. It is only through God’s grace that we can find the strength to die to ourselves.

Bitterness and Age

Cheyenne Evangelical Free Church, where I have the privilege of serving has continued to go through Hebrews, last week being in Hebrews 12. One of the verses the stuck out to me was verse 15 which says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” It reminded me of an experience I had at Culver’s earlier that week when I noticed an elderly couple sitting near me who were complaining about everything they ordered. Having worked at a fast food place I know how difficult it can be to keep all the customers happy. I one time had a guy order French Fries at McDonald’s, then come back an hour later complaining that they were cold. It seems to me that as people age they continue to become more and more bitter. Either everything has gone so well in their life that they expect it to continue to be that way so everyone around them needs to continue to fulfill all their wants and desires or life has been so hard that they continue to expect nothing but the worst, neither of which attitudes is godly.

By God’s grace, there are some exceptions to this rule, and I can think of no one better than my grandma who makes this clear. She has been a widow for almost 25 years and has lived with cancer for over a decade, yet she continues to serve in her local church body and continues to visit her local nursing home to visit her friends. Despite her loneliness she continues to serve pray and strengthen her local body. That’s the way it should be!

Where does this “root of bitterness” stem from? I think it often comes from a lack of contentment. Paul says in Philippians 4:11 “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” How many of us can say the same thing? How many of us can continue to encourage, support and set an example in our life as we continue to age? Titus 2 paints a brilliant picture of the way the church should work. The older should be teaching the younger to be self controlled and to “teach what is good.” We younger people in the church need the influence and support of those who are older so that we do not fall in to the same errors that the previous generation did. I hope and pray that as I continue to grow older I do not let bitterness rule my life, but instead that I continue to serve as God gives me the strength to do so.

The Young People Don’t Have All the Answers

At the beginning of October I wrote a blog titled ‘Where Are All the Young People?’ I encouraged those who are older in the church to come and talk to those of use in the church who are younger. Believe it or not, it may be the beginning of a very fruitful friendship. Today I’m going to address this issue again, but in a little different way.

So many people I talk to in church today continue to look for new ways to attract young people. We saw the emergent church rise up, we see church planting becoming trendy, even t-shirts that declare “John Calvin Is My Homeboy.” Yet despite all the churches efforts to change in order to attract more young people, they continue to leave in droves. Why is this? I think the emergent church is a perfect example of this: they are willing to skimp on the essentials in order to be more trendy to a larger demographic. I’m sorry, but Christianity and Jesus are not trendy topics. It isn’t easy to follow a guy who’s example of leadership was washing his disciples feet and who told his followers that to follow him meant to give up everything, even their lives (see Matthew 16). I think the church has sacrificed on far too many essentials in a drastic attempt to reach out to those who are leaving those very churches.

So what is the answer to this? We need to refuse to give in on the essentials. We need to be in a community of believers that encourages each other (Hebrews 10), we need to daily take up our cross to follow Jesus (Matthew 16) and we cannot be ashamed of who Jesus is (Mark 8:38). It’s not helpful to the world to try to make Jesus your homeboy and missing the atoning sacrifice that makes him your Savior.

John Newton Quote

My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things-that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.

-John Newton

The Meaning Of Meaninglessness

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you completely resonated with Solomon when he wrote Ecclesiastes? “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

These past couple weeks have honestly been kind of boring for someone who always likes to stay busy and engaged. Granted, I’ve had a couple of event filled weekends, but they seemed to be a lot of monotonous repetition, like setting up a PVC maze for a church event. How are we supposed to stay engaged and energized when everything seems to be boring? (sorry mom, I know how much you hate that word)

Honestly, I think it stems from a lack of contentment, at least in my own life. I’ve become so saturated with entertainment, that if I don’t have a screen in front of my eyes or music in my ears I feel lost. How can we continue to strive ahead when we’re always so distracted?

As a self-confessed techie and extrovert to the extreme, I do find it hard to sit down and rest. Yet throughout Scripture I see so many instances where we are commanded to sit down and rest. (see Psalm 27, 130 and Isaiah 40) Even Jesus, before his earthly ministry took 40 days of solitude in the wilderness. I so often struggle with this idea. I always want to have people around me and be having a fantastic time together. Even with my extroverted ways I’ve begun to see the importance and necessity of both taking a Sabbath and taking times of solitude.

What does this look like? Well for me, that means I have a day where I have absolutely nothing scheduled. I enjoy my rest, I’ll clean up around the house, I’ll spend time reading, catching up on some TV shows, talking to friends and family, honestly whatever I feel like doing. I’m very blessed in that the church I work in gives me 2 days off, 1 of which I try to use to clean and run errands and the other I try to use as a Sabbath doing only the above activities. What are some ways you’ve found to take breaks and Sabbaths in your life? Do you think it’s important to be taking regular scheduled times of rest?