This is a weekly series of fiction. You can find other chapters HERE at my Fiction page.
Dale Adkins looked at the church before getting out of his car. He wasn’t sure what emotion he was feeling. He had not interviewed with a church search committee in over a decade, only having interviewed for a couple of teaching positions since leaving the pulpit. Academic committees were a bit different from those from a church. He was nervous, for sure.
However, there was a sense of excitement as well. Doug had been right. He loved to teach, but he had missed being in the pulpit regularly. He missed pastoring the people of a church. He had tried to satisfy that desire by investing in the lives of his students. He had probably gone far beyond the scope of most professors. Maybe that was why he was rated highly in the annual surveys sent to the students by the college.
Dale knew that there were problems that the people of a congregation experienced that college kids didn’t, but the opposite was true as well. He has always related well to those older than him when he had pastored. Teaching had helped him stay in touch with those who were younger than him.
Dale stopped himself for a moment. He was getting ahead of himself. He was just interviewing for an interim position. It was just going to be temporary, just a few months to help them through the transition to a new pastor. He would benefit as well. It would help him get back into the rhythm of the pastor’s life. He would be able to use that time to seek the Lord in whether he would got back into the pastorate full-time or if some sort of pulpit ministry would simply supplement his teaching career.
Dale came to the door and entered. He looked down the first hallway. It was dark as only church hallway in the middle of the week could be. He to this right and saw the path of light he would take. He walked down past empty room after empty room. It was like that in just about every church he had been in. Buildings that were used a small percentage of the time. Too often, church buildings were an inefficient use of real estate, used only a couple of days a week.
Dale came to the meeting room door. He could hear voice on the other side. He pause for a second to listen. He could hear laughter, which he gauged as a good sign. Too often these committees were composed of people who didn’t really mesh well. A group of folks who were having a good time bode well for a relaxed meeting.
A short fleeting thought to turn around and leave shot through Dale’s mind. Why bother with this? He had it good at the college. He was on track to gain more and more responsibility. He was publishing articles and was on track to write a book soon. He was able to preach as often as he wanted. His pastor buddies were always asking him to fill in. Did he really want to give that up?
Dale wasn’t going to walk away. He knew that. He was going into the interview. He would talk to these folks and see where it went. If the Lord led them both in this direction, then so be it. If not, then that was good too.
Dale prayed a short prayer and opened the door. Five head turned in his direction. Four men and a woman. All smiling. ”Well, here goes”, he thought.
One of my favorite Twitter follows is Xianity. Whoever is behind this anonymous Twitter handle is a brilliant writer who mixes our faith and satire in 140 characters or less.
A few days ago this tweet was sent out: LOCAL: Area Sunday School teacher dismissed after refusing to use tried and true “bore the hell out of them” curriculum. As a former Sunday School teacher, this tiny statement resonated with me.
A pastor in one of my former churches would preach every Sunday. Each Sunday I would sit there bored out of my mind. I was hearing the most exciting news ever talked about in a way that would never appeal to me. There was no emotion in the dull, monotone monologues that were called sermons by some.
These sermons led to me to wonder if the man truly believed what he was saying. Interestingly, he even spoke against emotion coming into the church. It was almost that he was anti-emotion. Like he was trying to purposely downplay the Gospel and its effect on those who follow Christ.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not into emotionalism for the same of drawing a crowd. Many with some skill and training can learn to whip a congregation into frenzy.
However, there has to be more to it that simply delivering the news without any appearance of it affecting the emotions. Surely, you can’t just bore the hell out of people.
We have the most exciting Person that has ever walked this earth in our lives. His message is something that draws us to come to know Him and follow Him.
Let’s live like it.
Let’s live exciting lives in the name of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that you have to wave your hands or dance. I probably won’t. That’s doesn’t mean that the emotions that He gave me aren’t running high when I talk, sing or worship with my brothers and sister. I’m not going to stand there stone cold either.
Let’s not try to bore the hell out of people. Let’s proclaim Him in a manner worthy of the One we love and worship.
Have you ever been guilty of trying to bore the hell out of people? Does Christ and the Gospel excite you?
This is a post from a couple of years ago.
I almost called this one What I Am Afraid Of, Part 1. Instead it became Intruder or Introvert. I call it that because, quite honestly, I am an introvert.
Someone just picked their jaw up off the floor. They cannot believe that I am an introvert.
After all, I teach Sunday school. I have no real fear of public speaking. I do each of these each week. I am not afraid of these things.
However, here is what I am afraid of and it has everything to do with me being an introvert.
I am afraid of…….are you ready?…….wait for it……..group activities. Parties. Fellowships. Sunday school get-togethers.
When I say that I’m afraid of them, I don’t mean I fear them in the same way that I fear rattlesnakes or copperheads. What I mean is that when I walk up and a few of you are talking, I feel like an intruder. I see some of you and you have known each other for decades. I feel like I am intruding into your relationship. I fear that I will never have that with you or anyone else for that matter.
I see that some of you have some common interest. I hear you talk about something and speak what I almost think is a foreign language. I see you belong to what seems like some impenetrable circle that I cannot hope to join. And I fear that I will never have something like that.
I realize, at times, that it is really just a product of my introversion. I realize that it is part of where I inwardly hold back. I will only go so far before I move along.
So what do I do? I pop in and pop out. I will try to speak to you one on one. Sometimes with two of you. But the larger the group, the more likely I will move along. If I’m hurt, I will look inward. I will retreat to a book, a website or my blog where I will let it all hang out, sometimes with disastrous results.
I’m an introvert. What am I afraid of? That I am an intruder in people’s lives.
How about you? Are you an introvert? How does it affect your life?
On Sunday, I wrote a post based on my first sermon of the year at a campground I preach at each year. It was called Rescued From This Present Evil Age. You can follow the link if you wish. This is a sequel of sorts to that one.
Christ has rescued us from the age we live in. The question that someone might ask is this: What do we need rescuing from. We can say our sins. That is what you find in Galatians from Sunday’s post. But there is another way to say it as well.
We need to be rescued from loving this present world.
Paul wrote his young friend Timothy two letters. Near the end of that second letter, Paul begins describing the state was in. Everyone had deserted him. One of them was named Demas. Demas had once been a loyal member of Paul’s roving band of missionaries. Something changed in Demas. He left for Thessalonica. Why? Because he loved this present world.
There doesn’t seem to be much difference to me in this present evil age and this present world. I think these are two ways of saying the same thing. Demas abandoned the ministry and his friends because he loved the world more than he loved Christ.
It would be easy to say that this was unique to Demas or people in his time. We would be wrong if we believed that. It could happen to us.
People swing in any one of two directions. They try to avoid this present world, this present evil age by totally avoiding it. The problem is that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they love the One who rescues us from this state.
Others swing in the opposite direction. They embrace the culture to the detriment of their relationship with Christ. Don’t dispute this. It has happened to all of us at one point or another.
The danger is that instead of loving Christ, we love the world, we love this present evil age instead.
Do you love this present world, this present evil age? Or do you love Christ?
This is a post from a couple of years ago.
I saw someone the other day that was carrying a man bag. I don’t mean something that I could see a writer carrying that would contain a notebook, journal or other writing material. I’m talking about a genuine man bag. It was basically a purse for a man. The thought that went through my mind was, “I wonder what he’s carrying in there.”
Often I will carry a gym bag to work if I’m going to work out. I will have my gym clothes in it. I have my mp3 player and my iPod. I will stick my lunch bag in there. I may have a few other items in as well, like my latest Netflix movie that I’m returning or a book I’m reading. If I’m not working out, I will often shift to my backpack and carry many of the same items. Judging by the quantity of backpacks that I see carried into work, I am not alone.
My wife, daughter and just about every other woman who I have known all of my life carry a purse. I am mystified by what is carried in a purse. I was not allowed to go near my mother’s purse as a child. While I will venture into my wife’s occasionally, I still do not like it.
Physically, we carry a lot of baggage around. Spiritually and emotionally we do as well. Good stuff. Bad stuff. All of it baggage that we carry around. Think about how we carry things around with us for years. If you read my blog last week, you saw that things from my childhood affect how I view things now. An incident that happened over a decade that I don’t really think about often came out. My experience with my youth group at the church I grew up in affect how I view things today. Relationships in the past color the view I have of relationships today. Churches in the past affect how I see the church I have been a member of for almost sixteen years now. Pastors from the past affect how I view pastors now. Some of this stuff is good. Some of this stuff is bad. All of this stuff is baggage.
Here is the interesting thing. You don’t know about my baggage. I don’t know about yours. We carry this stuff around. My baggage bangs into yours. Your baggage bangs into mine. And one of the things about writing a blog is that your baggage will come out. For good or bad, it will be seen.
How about you? What kind of baggage are you carrying around that is good? What kind of baggage are you carrying around that is bad?
A few weeks ago I wrote this post about creating art for the Lord. Today I want to expand on that post just a bit.
When the Israelites left Egypt, Moses received specific instructions about how to build the Ark of the Covenant. Once the construction began, who were instrumental in creating the Ark?
You are an artist of some sort. You may be a writer, painter, or gardener. Maybe you wanted to be at one time, only to set it aside for some reason. You had a dream and it still lives there deep within you.
Is not pursuing that dream a sin?
I’m not 100% sure of the answer to that question. I can tell you that I think it is. Why? Because the Lord wants to give us the desires of our heart. That begins with Him being our number one desire. Our dreams and desires should then flow from Him.
Pursuing those dreams is an act, a way, of obeying and worshiping the One they come from.
The Israelite artists and craftsmen uses their abilities, talents and gifts to create the Ark, the precursor to the Temple. Now there is no building that acts as a temple for our Lord.
We are the temple of God now.
Just like the Israelites, we should use our abilities to build the temple of God. We should build up our brothers and sisters who are the temple as well. Our dreams and desires should further the kingdom of God in the world and within us.
So, I will leave you with the question I asked earlier.
Is not pursuing your dream a sin?
I’m excited to share a new series with you over the next few months. I have the privilege each summer to preach in a campground ministry. I will be sharing with you basically what my message will be each week.
Today I am preaching Galatians 1:1-5. In the way of introduction, Paul has a problem. The churches of Galatia that he has founded are being led astray by false teachers called Judaizers. They have entered these churches and added the Law to the Gospel. They are telling these people that grace is not enough, but works must be added to receive salvation. Word has gotten back to Paul and he writes this letter. Nothing less that the integrity of what he has proclaimed to them is at stake: the Gospel.
Paul immediately asserts his authority in the opening of this epistle. We can surmise that Paul himself has been called into question by these Judaizers. He states that he is an apostle. Most likely these false teachers have told the Galatians that Paul never witnessed Christ’s ministry or even knew him like the other apostles. You can almost hear them scream the question: What right does Paul have to be an apostle?
Paul contrasts himself and these teachers immediately. He says that his being an apostle has nothing to do with any other person on earth. He says that his apostleship is not from man, nor from any agency of man. Instead it is through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul is summarizing the fact that Christ appeared to him on the Damascus Road and appointed him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles at that point. The Judaizers, on the other hand, came stating that they were representatives of James and the apostles back in Jerusalem.
Paul gives a familiar greeting in verse 3. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a typical greeting from Paul, but it seems to pack an even greater punch in the context of the issues he is facing with the Galatians. In essence, Paul tells the Galatians that the message he brought them, the Gospel he preaches is one of grace. The false teachers is one of Law. The Gospel brings peace into your life. The false Gospel brings turmoil.
Paul continues by summarizing the Gospel. He writes that Christ gave Himself for our sins. In five words, Paul reminds the Galatians that Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He wants the Galatians to understand that Christ died in their place so that they could have eternal life. He gets to the heart of the Gospel in that Christ did the work so that they could be right with God.
What is the result of Christ giving himself for their sins? He did this so that He might rescue us from this present evil age. The Judaizers brought a message that Christ, along with the Law, delivered the Galatians from their sinful state. Paul declares that Jesus, with no other help, does this Himself. He rescues us from the state they were in. He delivers them into the kingdom of God. Christ Himself with no help from the Galatians at all.
To further emphasize this, Paul states that Christ does this according to the will of our God and Father. All of the work that Christ has done. The Gospel that Paul preaches. The rescue of everyone that Paul describes. This is done according to the will of God. This is His plan. To alter it in any way to cross the Father Himself.
Finally, Paul states that the Gospel he preaches and the work of Christ is all done for the Father to whom be the glory forevermore. Paul is stating that his message of grace through the Gospel is one that glorifies God. The message that is leading the Galatians astray is one that cannot possibly do this because it includes the work of man in it. Paul’s sole aim in proclaiming the Gospel and founding the churches of Galatia was to glorify God. What is the aim of the Judaizers?
The question we must ask ourselves is so what? False teachers abound in today’s world. Paul’s message is relevant to us as well. We must keep the Gospel close to our hearts and minds in our lives. We must measure the words of anyone claiming to represent the Lord by the truths that Paul preached. Christ has delivered us from the present evil age as well. We cannot afford to be led astray by false teachers and doctrine. We must seek to glorify God in all we do.