Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why Jesus?

I tend to pick a theme for a year and preach about it. Usually it's something that I've been reading about or something the Spirit lays on my heart (and yes, I do believe the Holy spirit does that). Picking a theme is not someething I take lightly, but after praying and reading and trying to assess the needs of the congregation, select the theme. Several years ago we had a committee select the theme. However, I asked if I could be the one who selected this since I was the one who had to preach about it. If I didn't have the passion for the theme, it would be hard to be passionate about the sermons. Thankfully, my shepherds gave the privilege and the task to select that theme.

Our theme last year was "The Amazing G(race). While preparing for it there would be little signs indicating I was going the right direction. Verses would pop out that I had never seen before. Lectures I attended spoke of grace. Speakers spoke eloquently about the riches of God's grace. Some would say I only saw those things because I was already attuned to notice such a topic. That's all right if you feel that way. I tend to see it differently. (You know....grace!)

Our theme for this year is "Jesus: (His)tory." Why did i choose that? Let me challenge you to read the epistles and note how many times Jesus' name is mentioned--directly and indirectly. Underline it in your Bible. Paul was notorious for talking of Jesus. The Hebrew writer says He (Jesus) is the author and perfecter of our faith. Paul said in Colossians that He was the firstborn of all creation. In the same passage, it says that in Him all things hold together. My assumption is, that outside of Him all things fall apart. In the gospels, John says that He was in the beginning and that, in fact, He is God. Once again the Hebrew writer tells us to "fix our eyes on Jesus."

I've asked others about good books concerning Jesus. I received such titles as:

Killing Jesus, Mansfield
Killing Jesus, O'Reilly
Jesus and the Victory of God, N.T. Wright
The Politics of Jesus, Yoder
Jesus: A Pilgramage, Martin
Jesus, Hero of Thy soul, McGuiggan
Jesus, Swindoll
The King Jesus Gospel, McKnight
The Jesus Creed, McKnight
Jesus and the Gospels, Blomberg
Jesus, the Pastor, Frye
Following Jesus, N.T. Wright
Jesus Christ, Porter
Putting Jesus in His Place, Bowman and Komoszewski
I Knew Jesus Before He was a Christian, Shelley
Who is This Man?, Ortberg
Beautiful Outlaw, Eldredge
Jesus: A Theography, Sweet and Viola
Jesus on Trial, Limbaugh

Of course, there is nothing more humbling and uplifting as reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to see how He interacts with those who think they have all the answers and those who come to Him seeking answers to life. I feel so inadequate trying to tell His story. Yet, I know that's what we need. We need to know Jesus as Paul says in Philippians. We need that relationship with Him. To that end, I just had something framed for my office. It very simply says, "Sir, we want to see Jesus." This will be my calling, not only for this year, but for the rest of my life. I want to introduce everyone I see to Jesus.

Dr. Jim White

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

About Your Minister/Pastor

I have hesitated to write this blog because I thought too many might think I have depression issues. I can assure you that I am fine and still am willing and able to get up every day and face the tasks that lie before me. But each of the following are thoughts and feelings that I have had in the past (and maybe still face). This is to encourage you to encourage your minister. Often he stands alone...or at least he feels he's alone. It's good for you to think about things from his side of the pulpit.

1. Your concerns are his concerns. A minister hears many stories during the course of his week. He hears of a wayward child or husband. Sickness is something that becomes a concern to him--both physical and spiritual. People, politics, and problems enter his office daily. And when he goes home at night, not only is he dealing and feeling your concerns, he has to deal with the concerns of his own family.

2. He feels inadequate. Trying to proclaim the awesomeness of God, the love of His Son, and the work of the Spirit is a wonderful task for the preacher. But he feels as if he can't really communicate the true meaning of our Lord's greatness adequately. Try to describe how much God loves you to someone else. At the end of his sermons, he often prays a prayer of apology to God that he has fallen far short of the goal of trying to describe the depths of God Himself. He has to wholly depend on God to use his shortcomings and weakness and allow God to work in the hearts of the people who have just heard his message.
But secondly, he feels inadequate as a sinner to proclaim the message of salvation and grace. He knows that you look at him as somewhat of an ideal Christian man knowing full well that he sins and sins often. His humanity often is hidden behind a shroud of seeming invincibility. When his sins do show up publicly, he feels as if he has totally failed his God.

3. He reads to present something timely and valuable often at the expense of his own spiritual well-being. Every preacher has a list of books he wants to read to help him in his own spiritual walk. Often that reading list takes a back seat in order to read and study for a lesson that is pertinent to the congregation. It's not that he doesn't enjoy the study that he does for his sermons. It's just that he feels as if he's reading to prepare a sermon rather than reading to enhance his spiritual life. How he would love to just read for the sake of enjoyment.

4. Often his family has to wait on hinm because he's dealing with a particular church problem or issue. The phone will ring in the middle of a family meal. There is a meeting on Saturday and it's imperative that he's there. A member is struggling with a teen who has run away or has threatened them with physical harm, and you're called to come to defuse the situation. Many "emergencies" take away from good, solid family time.

5. He is often the target of criticism for anything from doctrine to sermon preparation to fashion (or lack thereof). It's difficult to please everyone. Don't believe me? Try to please everyone in your own family. Let alone a church of 100, 200, 300, or a thousand. Our society has become such an opinionated lot, we are many times brutal in our assessment of the minister.
"He speaks too long."
"He doesn't speak long enough."
"He was boring."
"Wasn't his sweater horrendous?"
"I wish he would dress up more."
"He has really gone off the deep end!"
Whatever happened to grace? Since when is worship about us? When will we learn that all things are to glorfy God?

6. I have already briefly alluded to this one, but remember that his call to ministry never ceases. Phone calls, texts, and other messages come at all hours of the day and night. Even deaths don't care about vacations.

7. Sunday is a taxing day, both emotionally and physically. The preacher has to be "on" his game. Optimistic. Fresh. Enlightening. By the end of the day on Sunday, after all the sermons have been preached, when all the meetings are over, when the classes have been taught, one of the last things he wants to do is to be with people. All wants to do is go to bed because by the time everything is done on Sunday evening, he is exhausted.

8. Finally, and once again I have touched on this already, he is human and has flaws. No one is more keenly aware of this than he is. He knows that when he preaches about lust or greed or envy or anything else, he also struggles with the same issues. In fact, many of the sermons, if not all of the sermons, are preached because HE needs them. At the end of the day, he is brutally cognizant of the fact that he, too, is a sinner in need of God's grace.

This may not be true of all ministers/pastors. Perhaps some of these apply and some don't. And I'm not trying to say that ministry is depressing and cruel and I discourage anyone to follow the path of ministry. In fact, it often is some of the most rewarding work you'll ever do. You have a front row seat. You see the births, the triumphs, the crossing over into glory, in addition to all the other things. So, the next time you see your preacher, tell him how much you love him and appreciate him. More importantly than anything, tell him personally that you are praying for him. Accept him as another person, another follower of Christ who is doing his best to be a disciple...just like you.

Dr. Jim White