“Bad pastors beat their people up with their failures. Bad pastors are always disappointed. Good pastors know grace is true and Jesus is Lord, so they are ready to challenge every self-despairing soul with the wonderful truth that in Christ we are approved by God. Good pastors tell people they do have what it takes when they have Jesus’ righteousness.”

(from 10 Simple Things Good Pastors Say)

I read these lines above and they cut me to the core. This is terrific wisdom I wish I had known in my early years working with youth (and even later at times!). I have not always responded with grace. I have been easily disappointed and unfortunately I have let those I lead know. How refreshing it is to know we are covered by grace.

How refreshing it is to know that my own sinful life is covered by grace!

Father, forgive me for my shortcomings as a leader. Thank you for the grace you offer. Help me to lovingly extend that to others as both a shepherd of your people and as a shepherd of my own family.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).

“Believe in the Lord Jesus; and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, ESV).

I love watching God show up in ways you don’t anticipate!

This year has been a year of those unanticipated arrivals, but it shouldn’t have been.  This year my wife committed herself to praying for two major things in 2010.  Both of these prayers were answered.  Man, my wife is good!  One of these prayers I won’t share publically because it involves a close friend.  The other, I can proudly say, was our pregnancy and recent birth of Natalie Faith.

We had been trying for quite some time and due to medical complications (likely stemming from either one of us) it just wasn’t happening.  However, this was the year.  Phase 1 – complete!  Now we just had to figure out the delivery part.  We also anticipated a little more of an issue with her delivery because we had complications with the first pregnancy.  The days and weeks dragged on.  We couldn’t wait.  Finally, on December 1st, they delivered her at 37 weeks.  Our new, healthy daughter was about 2 lbs. heavier than they thought she could be.  Everyone is in good health.  Phase 2 – complete!

I attribute both of these answered prayers to God’s grace and my wife’s prayers.  It doesn’t stop there though.    Over the past few years I have been seeing multiple doctors trying to figure out the cause of my continual headaches.  While we haven’t found a solution quite yet we might be close (looking back, maybe that will be another answered prayer for 2010).  In the process, though, it has been fairly expensive.  As I look back, I am both humbled and blown away at God’s provision for us financially.  I don’t know where the money seems to come from but we have been well taken care of, much more than I would have ever expected.

In light of all of that, why do I get so frustrated at each new doctor’s appointment and each new bill?  Why do I get irritated when circumstances don’t turn out my way?  Why do I question so many things in moments of melancholy? In short, why can’t I trust God’s sovereignty emotionally even when I trust Him intellectually?

Some might say that I really don’t trust Him intellectually at all.  I would have to respectfully disagree with that because I really do believe God’s Word means what it says.  As I’ve thought about this, I think the issue is giving God control over my emotions.  I’m sure some of that will probably require an intellectual approach but much of it will likely be resting in who God is and not what I feel.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Maybe this is you!  If so, take heart because we are in this together.

However, some of you may be reading this and you struggle not only with the emotional but also with the intellectual.  To you I say keep searching out the truth from God’s Word and keep asking the hard questions.  God’s desire is to show himself to you.  God’s very nature is love (1 John 4:8) and he loves all men (John 3:16).  He demonstrated that by sending his own son to die so that we might be reconciled to him (Romans 5:8).  God’s word is true (Psalm 119:160) and he promises to supply every needed thing (Philippians 4:19) to those who call him friend (John 15:14).

If this is you, let me encourage you to look up those verses and consider their implications for your life.

During the Christmas season we celebrate how God, through Jesus Christ, showed up in an unexpected way answering the prayers that many had been praying for a long time.

My continued prayer for 2010 and beyond is that God will continue to show up unexpectedly, bringing honor and glory to himself.

Merry Christmas!

Anybody else ready for school?  I think I am.  I’m getting ready to start a new school year at a new school teaching two additional grades!  I’m a little nervous but overall I’m really excited.  In preparation for our upcoming staff retreat the principal sent each teacher a puzzle piece with the following directions: “put your entire name on it using a decorative flare that reflects your personality.”

Oddly enough, I knew immediately what I was going to do.  I am going to decorate mine in camouflage.  Before you ask, no I am not in the military and I don’t do a lot of hunting.  Here is how this reflects my personality:

  • With camouflage you can blend in and be a part of everything around you.  I feel like I can do that very well.  I am a team-player and will work hard to make my team look good.
  • The other part of the camo is that it allows you to lay in wait until you need to spring into action.  When needed I am willing to spring into action and lead.  I am willing to be bold and brave as I lead the charge for a cause I believe in.

So maybe it’s a little cheesy, but it’s true.

How about you? Are you a good leader, a good follower, or both?  Who you are leading?  Who you are following?

Do you have a cause you believe in, one that you will lead the charge in and even sacrifice your life if necessary?  I do!  I love music education and believe strongly in the value of the arts.  I will go to great lengths to give our students the resources they need and the experiences they deserve.  I will work hard to make sure each student has an excellent and balanced arts education.  However, I will not die for it.  I will die for the cause of Christ.  Not only will I die for Him but I am also willing to live for Him.

How about you?  How do you fit into the puzzle?

This morning I started reading through the book of Hebrews. I’ve read through it before but this morning I was just enamored by the author’s focus on Jesus. Just look at the first four verses and you’ll see what I mean.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

This text, by the way, came from the ESV Online Study Bible. If you own a copy of the actual study Bible you can even access the notes online too. Plus, you can save your own notes. To me, this sounds like a great resource! However, this is not an advertisement for the ESV Study Bible so back to Jesus!

Look at what this tells us about Jesus in just the first four verses.

1. God has spoken to us by his Son.
2. His Son is the heir of all things.
3. God, through his Son, created the world.
4. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God.
5. Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature.
6. Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power.
7. Jesus made a purification for sins.
8. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God.
9. Jesus is superior to the angels.
10. The name of Jesus is superior to the the names of the angels.

Let your mind ponder on these 10 things. I am so tempted to add insight to these descriptions of Jesus. However, by themselves, they are magnificent!

As we approach 2009 let’s renew our focus to look at Jesus. As this image sharpens my prayer is that we will look more like him, love more like him, and live more like him.