It's Saturday of my final week as pastor at Bethany Church. If you know the days of your week you know that I have to preach my final sermon in one day. I think I'm ready.
It's Thursday of my final week at Bethany. I need chips and salsa.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and
eat with him, and he with me. ~ Jesus, in Revelation 3:20
The world is full of options. Just try to order food at a restaurant without hearing the words, “Do you want a side with that, we have several options…” Things are the same when it comes to finding purpose in your
personal life. There is no shortage of choices when it comes to finding meaning in life. As the Mad Pastor,
I want you to consider Jesus to be your last option.
Many people look for meaning in their families. I’ve known moms and dads who have found great comfort in raising their children. Kids make mistakes and shame their parents. They grow up and move out. When that happens, those parents struggle with living in an empty home. Purpose is lost.
Couples without kids may find happiness in their relationship with each other. But people fail us.
Relationships end. Husbands grow old and frail. We’ve all known a man or woman who has face great hardships after the loss of a loved one. When we lose another, we lose ourselves.
Money and power are tempting options. We all seem to envy those with big houses, nice cars. We’ve all dreamt of winning the lottery and what we’d do with our newfound riches. And yet, have you ever seen the documentaries on those who have won the lottery and found themselves devoid of any true relationship or even filing for bankruptcy?
Yes, the world provides a lot of options. I’ve touched on just a few. Many options are even good ones… for
a season. But all options run out at some point. There is an option beyond this world.
Often times, people go to Jesus Christ when all other options have run out. They’ve tried everything else, there’s nothing left so they turn to him. It’s then that they find true life, true purpose in living in Christ. Sometimes you’ll hear someone say that they would have saved a lot of time if they had gone to Jesus sooner.
If you’re looking for purpose in your life, if you want to find meaning you’ll find that there are an almost unlimited number of options waiting for you. Why don’t you respond to the option that is not just waiting for you but looking for you… even knocking on your door? Save yourself a lot of time and disappointment, open the door to Jesus and make him your last option. Once you found him, you won’t need anything
A woman faces a possible fine and jail time for baptizing her two children (ages 5 and 7) without first notifying her ex-husband. According to www.foxnews.com Lauren Jarrell, a Presbyterian, “must face a criminal contempt hearing for violating a court order that said major decisions regarding the religious upbringing of her two children should be made jointly with the children's father.” The father, Emmett Blake Jarrell, a Methodist, preferred the kids be baptized when they are older and can better understand the significance of the sacrament.
Speaking as a Presbyterian pastor, we believe that when a young child is brought to be baptized, that child is presented on behalf of the parent’s faith. I have to wonder, did Lauren’s pastor ask where the dad is? If the pastor knew the father disapproved and proceeded with the baptism, why is he/she not being charged with violating the court order also? Because the pastor is not mentioned in this story, I am assuming he/she was not aware of the court order. But it is an observation worth noting.
Assuming Lauren withheld the information of the court order from the pastor, how can she in good conscious and Christian faith bring her children forward to be baptized? One of the questions she would have answered as part of the ceremony is, “Do you intend to provide for his/her Christian nurture?” Call me crazy, but deception is not part of Christian nurture.
The father is not upset that his two kids are baptized. Emmett is upset because they were not baptized in a way that he himself wanted them to be baptized. He wanted them to first have a better understanding of the sacrament. It should be noted that both the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches practice infant baptism. We baptize infants because we believe that God Himself initiates our relationship with Him and grace works in our lives before we are even aware of it or can understand it. If the father is a good Methodist he should not have issue with his children being baptized. This is not to side with the mother; I just question the father’s motives.
Then there are the kids. They will grow up viewing this event not as a ceremony in which they were brought before God to be received into His family but as an event which divided their parents and introduced court proceedings. What do you think that will do to their faith? If these children are being brought up on their parent’s faith, I wonder if they will ever want to have a relationship with God, let alone be baptized if given the option.
This is a sad story. Infant or adult baptism; we believe that God is doing something. At a minimum Christians believe that God is symbolically claiming the baptized person into His family. Can we trick God into accepting someone? Doesn’t God have a say in this? If God is all-knowing, would he willingly accept a child into his Church knowing the child’s father was being deceived? God is not a God of deception, but a God of truth. If I was the pastor who baptized these two children, I would be conflicted. Should I sign that baptismal certificate and record it with the church or tell the mom God won’t honor her deception? These parents have made the sacrament of baptism not about God or their children, but about themselves. They have used deception and revenge to try and control God. If God is the one central to baptism, why is He being left out?
My wife and I are thinking about getting a dog. Dogs can be a lot of work. But there are a few things about dogs that really rock; dogs love you. They always want to be near you or play catch. Dogs are loyal. I have seen dogs that have been mistreated by their owners; yelled at, swatted on the nose, even kicked. But when the owner comes home, the dog wags his tail.
Dogs can be trained. I knew a pastor in Iowa who owned a beautiful Akita. The dog went with him everywhere. If there was a long meeting, the pastor would take his dog and sit him down in front of the church. He would tell the dog to stay and there Fido* sat until the master returned.
Maybe this is why we love dogs. They will always love us. They are loyal, even when mistreated. They can be trained to do what we want them to do. Oh how we wish that Jesus could be like that.
Let’s face it, if we’re not really serious about our relationship with Jesus, we treat him like a dog. I don’t mean dog in the sense of a girl who dumps her cheating boyfriend, “I dumped that dog!” I mean dog in the sense that we can treat Jesus any way we want knowing that he will always love us and be loyal to us. And if we act just right or say the right things, we might even be able to train Jesus to do what we want him to do.
How do you know if you treat Jesus like a dog? Ask yourself the following. Do you
· Ask Jesus to wait in the car while you go into work?
· Put him in the back room of your house when friends are over?
· Expect him to love you even when you don’t treat him like you should?
· Expect him to come running to you when you call his name?
· Expect to be able to train him to do what you want him to do?
When you think about your relationship with Jesus, what images come to mind? Is he walking along side you on a leash so you can keep some control over him, or do you cut that leash loose and allow him to establish the course of your journey? Are you willing to follow him for a change and allow him to set the direction of your life? Perhaps we are the ones who should show a little loyalty and eagerly await for Jesus to call our name. What would you say if he did?
* I don’t remember the dog’s actual name. But I think we can all agree that Fido is the universal name for dogs. And if you’re concerned, I don’t remember the pastor’s name either. But it was Iowa and the story is true
This video was uploaded to YouTube about a month ago:
Here are a few quotes from the clip [with my interpretation]
The noise… you are allowing to be called worship
[Your music is invalid and God doesn’t like it]
I’m not mad at you I’m just angry that you’re not listening to common sense.
[I’m mad at you]
You better watch out…
[I have it in for you]
[This church] think they have financial troubles now? Just wait until somebody that knows what they’re doing gets a hold of this.
[I am hoping this church faces financial ruin because you are playing music I don’t like and playing it too loud.]
It doesn’t have to be rock’n’roll music with quote Christian words unquote … it actually hurts the body. Why can’t you give something melodic and soft so we can come in and pray?
[God doesn’t like your music. God likes my music. I think she also said Christian words hurt the body]
Yes we’re praying for you but please do something about the music. I’ll give you one more week.
[I’m (not we) praying that you will become less like the man God is developing you into and instead become more like me. And I’m praying my will be done in 7 days.]
As a pastor, a video clip like this drives me mad. Not angry mad, but mad in the sense that I have so many emotions I don’t know what to feel. I get a knot in my stomach and I just want to hug the guy that got this voice mail.
I believe I can wrap up everything I want to say with one question. If the caller understood that the purpose of worship was to reach out to a particular people and draw them in to experience the presence of God so they could be transformed and God glorified, would she have made a call like this?
Adam and Eve had the whole world. They could pretty much do anything they wanted. As far as I can tell God gave them one rule; they could not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. If they even touched it they would die.
But the serpent was crafty. He spoke to Eve and said, “Did God say you couldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?” She said, “I can eat from any tree except that one. If I eat from that tree, or even touch it I’ll die.”
By asking that question, he got Eve to starting thinking about the one tree she wasn’t allowed to even touch. Once he got her thinking about temptation the serpent used the truth to do evil. He said “You won’t die, you’ll be just like God knowing good and evil.” He tells the truth but in a misleading way.
That serpent was one sneaky snake!
Eve was deceived. She took the fruit and she ate it. She knew she wasn’t supposed to. Then she gave some to Adam. By the way, he was with her the whole time and never spoke up. Wimp. As soon as they ate, their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, and for the first time, they felt shame.
As they were putting the final touches on their new fig leaf wardrobes God entered the garden. Adam and Even knew they broke every rule in the book (at this time I think there was only one rule… don’t eat what they just ate) and afraid of God for the first time, they went and hid.
God found them… bid shocker. And then he asked Adam and Eve why they were hiding. He noticed a little bit of juice running down Adam’s lip and God asked him, “Did you eat from the tree I told you not to?”
Adam defended himself, “The woman you gave me, she fed me the fruit.” In doing so he denied responsibility for his actions and blamed his own behavior on both God and Eve.
God asked Eve if this was true. “Did you really do this?” Eve replied, “It’s not my fault, I was tricked. It’s the serpent’s fault.” Eve has learned the art of passing the buck too.
The serpent was right. Adam and Eve did not physically die. But they have changed. Who they were before that day began died. They’ve been transformed. They now use the truth to try and mislead God.
Adam and Eve are sneaky snakes!
Have you ever used the truth to mislead someone? Boss, I’d have that project done but Larry wouldn’t return my phone calls so I didn’t have the information I needed. It’s his fault I’m behind schedule. I didn’t pass that test because I didn’t have time to study… but wow, what a great ending to Lost! God, I know you want me to give to the Church but I just don’t have the finances right now… I’ll have a non-fat, double shot mocha please. Make sure that lid’s on tight. I don’t want to spill it in my new car which will be mine after 84 easy payments.
We justify our behaviors. We take advantage of God’s grace. We use the truth to manipulate others, to manipulate God.
We are sneaky snakes!
Just like he did with Adam and Eve God comes to us. He covers our shame. Ultimately, He gives our honor back to us by sharing our shame on the cross. By taking our guilt onto himself God has redeemed us and transformed us back into his children again.
God loves sneaky snakes!