I recently began reading JC Ryle’s Thoughts for Young Men with one of our sons. Once again I was taken with Ryle’s ability to bring theology to life with great wit and clarity. As a pastor, he challenges me to think more deeply about crafting messages that can be remembered easily. As a reader, it just makes me happy. Ryle didn’t live in the age of Twitter, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of his great one-liners from the first chapter of this great little book. Perhaps it might also be an encouragement to add this to your reading list.
…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:14-16)
Should a church be focused on proclaiming God’s Word or organizing and promoting ministries of interpersonal mentoring and discipleship? The goal of this short post is simply to reject the false dilemma this question poses.
No one likes Genesis 19. It’s never contained anyone’s “life verse.” Sexual violence and widespread judgment don’t make for good greeting cards or bedtime stories. But God knows what he’s doing and included these gut-wrenching stories on purpose. By reading carefully, we come to see the story of Lot’s rescue from Sodom as an introduction into intercessory prayer on behalf of the church, following the example of Abraham. We come to see the justice of God and should delight to see how his justice magnifies the grace shown to Lot and his family in answer to Abraham’s prayer.
But Genesis 19 doesn’t end with Lot’s rescue. It doesn’t end with a “happily ever after.” It stumbles and trips over itself and leaves us feeling disgusted, questioning the point of telling stories that only make us uncomfortable. Was it really necessary to tell us of Lot’s drunkenness and his daughters’ desperate plunge into incest?
Pastoral burnout is a difficult issue to address – partially because it combines the hard data of how many pastors leave the vocation on a regular basis with the “soft data” (is that a thing?) with issues less easy to measure, like feelings and encouragement and relationship dynamics. I appreciated the recent Mortification of Spin podcast and would recommend it to your listening.
I’d like to add one thought to this discussion, something based on my own experience. (This was long enough ago that I think I can share it without offending anyone or causing any of my church family to fear for my current sanity.) Several years ago I went through a period characterized by loneliness and discouragement.
Being a pastor means a significant portion of my work revolves around the odious task of dealing with someone’s sin. Whether I’m preaching about it, counseling through it, praying over it, it seems much of my energies are directed toward this tireless enemy. Through the years, I’ve found the following truths from God’s Word to be repeatedly proven in times of difficult ministry. Consider this my cheat sheet – gathered through study of God’s Word and more-or-less successful conversations with others.
My lovely wife and I recently celebrated our seventeenth anniversary. As a way to honor the occasion and make some spiritual use of it, I tweeted out #17thoughtsonmarriage over the course of a couple weeks. In the hope that they may be helpful or spark some conversation, I’ve pasted them here.
1 – Genesis 3:15 isn’t the first gospel message. Genesis 2:24 is. Ask Paul (Eph. 5:32). #17thoughtsonmarriage
— Jared Olivetti (@irpcpastor) August 7, 2016
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,“return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12-13
Our session (at Immanuel RPC in West Lafayette) has called for a day of fasting and prayer on Thursday, September 8th. I would like to use this opportunity to invite you and your congregations to join us.
So apparently #blessed a thing. If you have time, head over to twitter and search for #blessed to get a sense of how your friends and neighbors define what it means to be blessed. Some will be sarcastic, others will just be sad and a little pathetic.
Thankfully, God’s Word defines blessed too:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-1)
As you might guess, King David says that to be forgiven is to be blessed. No Christian I know would disagree with this.
So why don’t we live like it’s true?
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
What do we mean we say, “I forgive you”? More importantly, do we mean what the Bible means?
When we really dig into Scripture’s teaching on forgiveness, we find that it stretches and challenges us, forcing us into the uncomfortable territory of being more like Jesus. Without further ado, taking our cues from God’s Word and God’s forgiveness, here’s what we should mean when we say “I forgive you”:
A brief encouragement for the culturally discouraged or even culturally fearful:
This morning at our local pastors’ meeting, our leader encouraged us to share how God was using His Word in our lives or in the lives of the churches we serve. As we went around the room, pastor after pastor said almost the same thing: “We are preaching in Judges / Numbers / Ephesians / Genesis right now and God is using His Word to equip us for faithfulness in a difficult world.”