Pastor's Blog

Recently the elders asked me if I had given any thought to my retirement or my “exit strategy”.  I joked and asked if they were trying to get rid of me.  After the chuckles subsided, we had a conversation about the future of the church – because it is important for the elders to think about as we plot our direction.  I think it’s important for our people to think about too.

First -- I’m not dying, retiring, and or leaving.  I plan to lead this congregation so long as God gives me the health and strength to do so, and so long as the congregation will have me.  But I’m not a young man anymore.  My body knows it’s seen sixty years, and my soul sometimes feels like it’s seen even more. 

There’s now more of the road in my rearview mirror than in the windshield, and the car isn’t stopping.  It isn’t slowing down either.  Someone keeps pressing harder on the accelerator every year, it seems.  And the trip is heading into unfamiliar and almost uncharted territory.  When that starts happening, your gaze starts shifting up to the rearview mirror, finding comfort in the familiar.

Time doesn’t go in reverse and neither does the trip.  It goes forward into the unfamiliar.  It starts to all seem so irrelevant – not because the trip is, but because you yourself are.

You become very conscious that the trip will go on without you, and you start thinking about what your life meant, and what you are passing on to those who will be driving the next leg of the journey.

I don’t know where this year’s blog will take me, but this is where I’m going to start.  Looking forward.  Looking at where YOU all might go when I can’t make the trip anymore.

Most of the plans I had for my life never came to fruition.  God’s providence dropped me into a tiny church that was on life support, and He healed its troubled past and restored its life.  He made it something its founders didn’t imagine it would be. 

I don’t believe this work was done only to wither when I left the scene.  I am confident a foundation was laid for tomorrow, and Mountain View will outlive me and blossom further.

So where do you think this church will go in the next twenty years?
Where do you want it to go?

What will it be when YOU are forty or fifty or sixty?
What do you want it to be?

We can explore that that sort of thing now, can’t we, without feeling morbid?

…If you hope to accomplish something, better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission, better an oops than a what-if.

…The world has never been a level playing field.  Inequality is the fabric of nature.

…You can’t unite people around the mere idea of unity, merely for the sake of unity, without addressing the things that divide them in the first place.

…Americans up until the Civil War compromised on slavery and avoided abolitionists as divisive radicals.  But abolitionism was a good divisiveness; the compromise allowing the existence of slavery was the evil.  There is a time to be divisive.

…Indecisive people are afraid of making mistakes, but their biggest mistake is to believe in the existence of flawless decisions.  Every decision has a downside -- a cost to gain the benefits -- and the downside sets up your next set of decisions.  That’s how reality works.

...Death is inevitable, and the normal processes of living create the conditions that make dying possible, rendering the plea "if it saves just one life" sentimentalist nonsense.

…If gender is something you can choose, what is feminism fighting for?

…In the earliest stage of the shutdown, Governor Wolf and his experts determined that cement companies were essential but the quarries providing the gravel necessary to make cement were not essential.  This is the only commentary necessary regarding socialism and central government planning.

…Is it better to avoid the news and be uninformed, or to attend to it and be misinformed?

…We often speak of great historical personages rolling over in their graves.  But I think many of the truly great people of the past, if they understood the changes in the world since their time, would appreciate the complexity of the struggles we face in ours -- and would prefer to remain face-up and at rest in their graves.

…I’ll believe it is vital to public health to wear little cloth masks when scientists in the virus labs exchange their space-suit paraphernalia for little cloth masks.

…“We’re all in this together” and “We’re all alone together” are slogans from 2020 that have likely been offered as empty comfort to citizens of hell.

…There is a fine line between contentment and laziness.

…The most difficult challenge of ministry is investing quality time and personal interest in others that would otherwise go to your wife and children, and then to have that investment appear stolen or wasted.

When I came over to evangelicalism from Catholicism, I was surprised to discover hostility to Christmas celebrations.  We needed to be rid of Santa Claus and Christmas trees and mistletoe and gifts and stockings and yule logs – anything that had its origins in paganism.  The devil had touched it and tainted it, permanently rendering it unusable for God’s good ends.

Is the devil that powerful?
Is God that impotent?
Christ redeems us.  He rightfully takes something back.  When our souls were redeemed, our personalities weren’t obliterated; we weren’t turned into completely unrecognizable brand-spanking new people.  We still possessed the same facial expressions, personality quirks, and sense of humor.  Those things were simply redirected to new and better ends.

Christianity does the same thing when it touches culture.  Culture is just the way we live life – our customs and traditions and practices.  The Spirit of God doesn’t generate a purely “Christian culture”.  Instead, He seems to have always taken Roman or German or African or Celtic or Oriental or Jewish ways and repurposed them as tools to new and better ends.

There is no purely Christian culture.  There are only human cultures baptized by the Spirit.

This bothers some evangelicals.  They seem to think that if Colonel Mustard used the candlestick to commit a murder in the library, all candlesticks and libraries must never be used again. 

But couldn’t God redeem the same candlestick and set it up in the library to shine light for people to read by?

Isn’t this what redemption is about?

Some evangelicals worry too much about the devil and what people have done supposedly under his influence and not enough about the fact that Christ has overcome the world.  Is everything about every non-Christian religion demonic and diabolical?  Is the devil’s touch so poisonous as to be able to taint God’s creation and put it beyond the renewing touch of an Almighty Redeemer?

The apostle’s take on unbelieving Gentiles is that they are feeling their way toward God, groping in the dark to find Him (Acts 17.27).  Perhaps some groping in the dark is demonically inspired, but perhaps some of it is the best that a sincere blind man can do.  I don’t criticize my four year old grandchildren for their attempts at writing their names or drawing stick figures;  I post them on my refrigerator and recognize them for what they are.

The best that a sincere blind man can do will be terribly imperfect.  But God is in the business of redeeming and transforming things.  And when He redeems and transforms someone or something, it is taken back to Himself.  The devil loses his power.  Darkness is pushed away by the light.  What looked like a defeat is suddenly a resounding victory.

Merry Christmas to all!  Enjoy your holiday with all of the fixings!

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