Day Three – The Daily Lapse into Sin

Come along on the journey as Ben reads from Johann Gerhard’s “Meditations on Divine Mercy.” This is Day Three, “The Daily Lapse into Sin.” In today’s devotion, Johann reminds us how daily struggles result in our daily need for God’s great mercy. All scripture read comes from the ESV.

Let’s turn our hearts toward God together:

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Remembering the Sins of Youth

Come along on the journey of mercy each day as Ben reads from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy. This is Day Two, Remembering the Sins of Youth.

Make sure to leave your comments & questions below! I’m glad you’re coming along on this trip with me.

Begin Here: Simply Listen

There have been so many times where I have allowed myself to be sidelined by worry. It’s not a point of pride, that’s for certain. As a minister of over 20 years, one who has taught and told and discipled so many people to walk by faith and not by sight, who has repeatedly looked to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6 where He expressly tells us not to worry, and where we are reminded that worry is a lack of faith in so many other places where He has these daily interactions with His disciples. I shouldn’t have any doubt in my mind in regards to the struggle that worry creates, and of the handiwork of the enemy that can be found in those faithless places…I should know better. I should be more aware. I should be stronger…right?

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As a pastor, I sometimes put that pedestal underneath of myself and have expectations for myself that can be unfair, ill-advised (seeking my own counsel) and all in all, not God-honoring.
And so I repent, and I repent again later. I’ll likely have to do it again.

So much of worry comes from the lies I tell myself and the lies I listen to from the world and from the enemy. These are all old tricks, old means and they are well worn pathways for so many of us. We let ourselves walk down them without thinking. It’s like navigating our own house in the dark of night. We know where the sofa is, we are aware of the coffee table, and we can walk through without so much as stubbing a toe.

And we fall right back into the pit in the living room floor. We knew it was there. We’ve known it was there. We’ve fallen into it before. And we let it happen again.

Why? Why do we do this? Paul voices this struggle well in Romans 7. It’s something that is deeply familiar to all of us. We know this struggle, and we have the scars from the struggle.

And when we finally look up and open our eyes, our ears begin to listen and we hear the voice of our great God singing over us. An unbroken tune, rich in love, deep with mercy, overwhelming with compassion, rhythmic with grace, peace and a shelter only He can provide. Here we rest. Here we are reminded. Here we begin to listen again, the harsh, broken, sickly-sweet croaking of the enemy is drowned out by the everlasting love of YHWH G_d.

It’s so simple we often forget it, but it’s always there.
Begin here: simply listen.

Passages to help with worry – BibleStudyTools.com 
33 Verses on Anxiety from Debbie McDaniel
Keys to Overcoming Fear – Bible in One Year

Saturday Something – Ep6 – Your Good News

God is very clear on where your value comes from.
This is super important. Listen to this.

What a Good Memory

What’s your favorite memory?
Do have a place or time that you enjoy thinking about, mentally revisiting? What is the first Christmas you remember? What’s the earliest birthday party that you can recall the in detail? Who has moved away or passed on and you find comfort in revisiting memories from your time with them? What memories bring you the deepest joy or stir your heart the most? Whether it’s your wedding day, the day you child was born, or the day you discovered the grace that God has for you, there are so many good memories that God has provided for us.

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Listen to David, stirred to remember the goodness of God, and put yourself in his shoes. Let your heart remember with his.

Psalm 105
1Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

God is good all the time. Remember that, okay? Whatever happened today, whoever gave you that sideways ‘complement’ the other day, whoever let you down…no matter what came about, God is good. That never changes. People can make dumb choices, have bad attitudes or completely forgot that they promised you they would do something…and that doesn’t change the fact that God has you, loves you and is providing for your tomorrow.

Human circumstances have nothing to do with how good God is, how consistent He is, how loving He is or how awesome He is…and He loves you.

Saying Goodbye, part 1

Okay, so this is hard.

It’s one thing to have the idea to leave. It’s another to begin the process of separating by looking for what’s next. When it comes to saying goodbye, that is where the rubber hits the road. And we had to do it twice in one transition. I know pastors don’t normally get to publicly speak into these things. If you’re a pastor, please, read through. If you’re not a pastor, hopefully this will help you see we’re just as human as you are. There’s some unwritten rule not to talk about this, and for the life of me, I can’t understand why. The faith of the church isn’t in me or in any other pastor. It’s supposed to be in Jesus. He’s perfect, and He’s working on me.

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When I made the decision to leave my previous position in the August before I left. I was making a painful decision that I had previously been determined not to take. When I have seen some ministers leave in the past, I have been tempted (not knowing everything) to think that they weren’t giving God enough credit or authority because they had some idea that they couldn’t see something through. It was a sign of weakness to me. It was a lack of faith, and it upset me.

And then I was the one in the hot seat. Funny how things happen to change when you know all the details, when you’ve experienced all the emotions. Things look different when you’re the one who feels neglected or beat down or doubted or whatever else bad stuff you might feel. Personally, again transparency here, I was feeling pretty worthless and ineffective. People were leaving and I found myself jealous of their freedom to go. That’s not a good place to be when you’re supposed to be the one leading and pastoring them. They saw the leadership stall out, they saw my attitude shifting. I accept my part.

I wanted to go to the big church down the street. I wanted to just worship and have no responsibilities. I was worn out. I had faith. I felt it, but I was dealing deeply with disappointment and rejection. When fear on our part stalls out the things that God wants to do, it’s hard to reconcile. When you’re energized and ready to go and your teammates in leadership are the ones dealing with trepidation, it can be incredibly frustrating. It creates friction. It can make things volatile. It can hurt.

You need a release. You need a God-honoring pressure valve, and looking back, I wish someone had pressed me into a place where I would have reached out even more. But so often, frustration can drive us deeper and deeper within ourselves. It cripples us, slaps blinders on our heart and eyes, and keeps us from seeing options that might be right in front of us. When you’re an introvert who can pretend to be an extrovert 2-3 times a week, retreating into quiet becomes a very attractive and comfortable place.

When your counselors press you to step away, to move out from toxicity, it makes anything and everything else look good. Again, this is not a good place for a pastor to be. I should have taken a vacation, gone on a retreat, sought out an extended coaching time. But since I was planning on leaving, it was more about being in survival mode rather than being effective with the time I had left. Again, just pointing this out, my attitude was not in the right place. The pressure and need for revitalization within the church was a constant pressure and I felt very alone.

But hindsight is often 20/20, and those blinders we wear in frustration can be really, really effective. There’s danger in the echo chamber they create, and I walked into my goodbye from within this echo chamber.

So, December rolled around and the pressure was building. It was the first Christmas season, the first Advent, I have celebrated where I just wanted it to be over. The careful approach to anticipation was gone. The reverent remembering was relegated to ‘maybe next year’ status. So, after Christmas wrapped up, we had an elder’s meeting, we had a very frank conversation and I resigned my position.

Have you ever seen one of those scenes in a movie when an EMP goes off and there’s a pulse of energy that presses out from the device? That’s what happened with my stress, my frustration, and my withheld tension.

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The elder sitting next to me said, “Did you feel that?” Seriously, he felt it physically come off from me. Don’t tell me that there wasn’t an unseen spiritual component at work here during this. He asked again, “Really, did you feel that?” he was amazed and concerned. I told him that’s what I had been carrying for months and months. I told them I was sad there wasn’t some attempt to walk through the hardship together. After all, this wasn’t their first time we’d had tough conversations. We had talked through this, or attempted to,  many times. I said a few other things from that, they let me vent a little, and I expressed my hope for what might still come there. Some of the guys in the room started crying, some apologized. One sat stoic, unmoved by my departure.

We wrapped up quickly at that point. They committed to providing for my family for the next 90 days, which was amazing, and I promised them that I would continue to operate with complete integrity and without drama. They didn’t ask me to do that, that promise was mine. They reassured me they weren’t worried about me in that regard (which was nice to hear, they at least knew my integrity mattered to me), we prayed and parted ways.

When I got to the car, I called my wife, told her I was coming home and then called my parents and played everything out from the evening to them as I drove. The mixture of relief, sorrow, confusion and hurt washed over me through the following days. I told the staff, one by one, I kept it quiet until the following Sunday. I wasn’t going to drag this out.

I jump into the cold pool. I rip off the band aid. I don’t stretch out unpleasant circumstances. I wasn’t going to drag the church through this with some prolonged leaving. I once saw a minster take six months to leave and it was painful. I was determined to let everyone move on as quickly as possible…but that’s for the next post.

I have to tell the couple of hundred people that I had served and served alongside of for almost a decade. That was going to be the hardest part, and the next post.

Resources:

Good for the Worst

God Almighty, Lord of Heaven & Earth, God-Who-Sees, God-Who-Provides, Judge & Counselor, our sinful lays before You revealed, nothing is hidden, everything is known to You. The darkest corners of our hearts & the false impressions we put on to impress others are exposed for what they are in Your sight. There are no secrets we can keep from You, nowhere we can run or hide from Your gaze. You know our going in & our coming out, our lying down & our rising up again. Grant us this mercy today, remind us of Your best, the good You have provided because of our worst. Let us see You & be reminded of our own condition in the light of Your glory. Let us remember today, pace ourselves with the footsteps of Jesus along the Way of Suffering & the Hill of the Skull. May we be present there today & turn our hearts heavenward. Remind us, sweet Jesus, of Your love, mercy & grace over us. Forgive us our deep failings, every one & restore our hearts with Your blood & Spirit. We pray this in the power of Your precious Name, Jesus, amen.

Read slowly.
Close Your eyes & imagine at the paragraph breaks.
Be present, an observer in the crowd today.
Walk through today aware of what He did for you as your day progresses.

Luke 22:54-23:56

(Friday, Early Morning)
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.
And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”  And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”  And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.

 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him.  They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”  And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.”  Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

(Friday, Morning)
Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.
  And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”  And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”  But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”

 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”  A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’  For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

(Friday, About 9am)
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

(Friday, noon)
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,
while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

(Friday, 3pm)
Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man,
who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
(Friday, ~6pm)

Remember.