Inside a Pastor’s “Bad” Sunday

It’s always great to see personal growth in my life!  Yesterday (Sunday) was a day where I saw it so clearly.  Let me start with what happened from my perspective.  Our first service at Leroy Chapel was the most distracted in teaching I’ve ever been.  Amidst the environmental maladies (temperature and sound system) my head was spinning.  I was distracted and couldn’t seem to get past it.  Add to that I was starting into the book of Micah (yeah, preaching a Minor Prophet for Advent) and struggling to get out of the blocks well in our study.  Forty minutes later I’m not sure that I said anything of value to God’s people.  I couldn’t wait to finish the service.  I’m in the middle of the benediction and the microphone screeches yet again, I just hopelessly close in prayer and do my best to exit stage left to pray my frustration away before the second service begins.  I can barely get down the stairs before a gentleman in our church, who obviously b-lined to me, stops me to tell me how much God used that message in his life this morning.  I say thanks knowing that more clearly than ever it wasn’t because of me.  I head outside to stand in the 38 degree morning alone to preach the Gospel to myself, beg God for grace, and figure out what to change in my sermon.  The second service starts in what seemed quicker than usual, and we were off and running leading another group of God’s children in worship this first Sunday of Advent.  The Spirit of God rode in to my troubled heart on the familiar promises of God and freed me from “relying on myself”.  I gloried in the cross, rested in His Fatherly care, and just did what God has called me to do.  I have no idea if the sermon was any better, but it felt like an entirely different one to me.  I saw how human and how supernatural what I get to do as a pastor is.  Reflecting on yesterday (which isn’t in “woe is me complaining”, but spiritual evaluation) I could see clear growth in my heart … and that’s always fun. How? (1) What in the past would have “messed with me” (1st service), God gave me the maturity to just move on from and worship Him out of my calling (2nd service).  (2) I felt more than ever that it wasn’t about me, but the Spirit of God who wields the Word … and the Word’s got the power!  (3) I didn’t let the lies like – “Maybe you should just go work at Home Depot” fill my mind, but rather the promises like – “grace in a time of need” flood my heart.  (4) I can easily write about it today rather than wish it never happened, and (5) I can’t wait for next Sunday.  Such good stuff to see spiritual activity take place in my soul … Thank you God.  And thanks to all of you who prayed for me as you huddled under your jackets as the sanctuary became a deep-freeze 🙂

Loving God’s Work in Me,

Pastor Mark

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How Rest Keeps You Busy

I’ve had to learn how to rest … it doesn’t come naturally.  Don’t get me wrong, I can sleep in when I’m tired, but then the “guilties” sweep over me for time wasted or all the things I could have been doing.  But real Rest, now that I’ve had to learn.  Rest that isn’t about selfish indulgence, material comfort, or escape from pressure … but rest that is first of all a spiritual Gospel-rest that knows (most of the time) that I am His and He is mine.  Rest that knows my identity isn’t found as preacher, administrator, counselor, or even dad/husband, simply child of God.  It’s starting from that rest that I can now actually find emotional rest – the kind that doesn’t worry about what isn’t getting done, whether people think I’m being lazy or irresponsible, and what awaits my return.  Now that actually feels good.  Amazing thing is that in finding that spiritual and emotional rest, the physical rest comes … and actually I have now found that the physical rest is the lesser of the three.  Oh how long it’s taken me to learn and experience this!

So, I recently got some rest.  All three!  Five days away with my wife … and some of my favorite things:  lifelong friends, a beautiful location, a round of golf, some good meals out, and reading in the sun by the pool.  Now to my point – when God provides that kind of prayerful, reflective, soul-full rest … God delightfully gives me all kinds of ideas, dreams, and vision for the future.  I wrote about the next book study I will be preaching through (Micah), and about personal goals for the winter months.  I had ideas for writing projects, community development partnerships, and family adventures.  I dreamt about church planting movements in NE Ohio and N. Ethiopia, trips to Israel, and ways our church could influence school districts for the building of the family.  I was busy … and it was so restful.  If only a couple of those things come to fruition I’ll have changed the world (or at least my world).  I dare say that only a cross-saturated, Jesus-loving, over-achiever could have that kind of rest.  Thank you Father for restful rest, and thank you for productive rest.  May I find that rest in the fullness of each day when the golf, sun, and meals out are gone.

For Your Rest,

Mark