Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saints...but not always saintly

Growing up Roman Catholic meant hearing the names of various "saints" all the time. It appears John Paul II will soon be made a saint by the Roman Church. I get a kick out of one of the reports concerning his candidacy as a saint-

The beatification is taking place despite a steady drumbeat of criticism about the record-fast speed with which John Paul is being honored, and continued outrage about the clerical abuse scandal: Many of the crimes and cover-ups of priests who raped children occurred on John Paul's 27-year watch. But Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the retired head of the Vatican's saint-making office who presided over the investigation into John Paul's life for the beatification, said Saturday the pope couldn't be held responsible for something he didn't know about. (NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press)

It's not the opposition to JPII's sainthood (on the basis of the RC child abuse scandal), that I get a kick out of, of course. Nor does the "head" of the Church's ignorance about a widespread sexual abuse situation evoke any kind of amusement in me. No, it's the "saint-making office"reference that strikes me funny.

I don't object with calling various figures in church history "Saint". St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James, etc. I do object with the idea that some Christians are saints and others are not. Anyone cleansed by the blood of Christ through faith is a saint. In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth (unless referring to their memory). In Roman Catholic teaching, a person becomes a saint when they are “beatified” or “canonized” after death by the Pope or the Vatican's saint-making office, as it were. In Scripture, everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ is a saint. In Romanism, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshipped. In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.

It is important to note, however, Scripture refers to Christians as saints but also calls Christians to live like saints. Understanding what this means comes from a knowing what the term "saint" literally means. The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious, holy." It is almost always used in the plural- "holy ones". So, people are positionally holy when they are in union with Christ by faith, but they are also called to live out their position by practicing holiness in this life. We can be reasonably sure saints were not people chosen by a group of bishops as the term is used extensively in the New Testament before very many bishops (elders) were appointed. The whole of the New Testament was written before 70 AD (95 AD at the latest), so the NT usage of "saint" refers to living Christians unless referring to the memory of a Christian who died.

Philippians 4:21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you

We're saints by virtue of union with Christ by faith...but we ain't always too saintly.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Best Conspiracy Ever (Satire)

Some more good stuff from the Lutheran Satire folks!

HT: Wayne

Tuscaloosa Twister

God be with the many folks in the southern U.S. dealing with wicked storms. There has been a huge loss of life and property down there. This footage of a huge twister in Tuscaloosa, Alabama yesterday is eery.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tim Keller Interview

Here's a good interview with PCA pastor Tim Keller. Keller pastors Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, NY.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Meditation

Consider these words from the hymn "Ah, Holy Jesus", by Johann Hermann, written in 1630.

They are haunting words that declare the truth about my sin in relation to the death of Christ. I look forward to singing this tonight.

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was Thy incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life’s oblation;
Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.

Ridiculous goal

This is a straight up ridiculous goal. To reach back and flick this ball and volley it? Unreal. Aguedelo will not last the season before a top tier Spanish club snatches him up.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Timber Joey is awesome!

Portland has a relatively rich soccer history for a U.S. city. They finally got an MLS team this year, called the Timbers.

Apparently, before the Timbers came to MLS, when they were playing in the United Soccer League (basically a minor league team), they had a tradition where a lumberjack would slice a piece of log with a big old Husqavarna chainsaw every time the Timbers scored.

Here's footage from the first slice of the log after Portland's first goal at home last week-

Timber Joey is just one more reason why soccer is the greatest game on earth.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

5-month knee update and a RPC UNITED t-shirt prototype

I haven't given an update on my knee rehab in a while. I just hit the 5-month mark since surgery. I finished rehab a month ago and the knee is at full flexion, which is great. I have been riding my bike or doing the elliptical six days a week. I have jogged a mile a few times, but it didn't feel great, so I stopped. In one more month, if all progresses like it has been, I expect my doctor to clear me to start jogging more and play soccer.

I have been coaching two of my sons and kicking the ball around with them a bit, but nothing major. My knee feels good in so far as regular activities are concerned, but it doesn't feel like it could handle lots of cutting, stopping and starting, etc. right now. Very honestly, I have no idea if I'll be able to return to playing with RPC United (my beloved church team) in a league. My playing days on that level (make no mistake, Men's "D" division is as high a level as one can possibly imagine) may well be over at the ripe old age of 39. We'll see and only God knows.

Despite the uncertainty about my playing future, I was not hindered from designing the latest in RPC U gear- a long-sleeved t-shirt with an awesome moniker:

Thanks for your prayers! I'll let you know how things go when the doctor "clears" me in a month. It's been a long road since the nasty dislocation on October 14.

Calvin on the relationship of Jesus' death and resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus was central to the Apostles' lives and ministry, and so should be the case for each of us. When we consider Christ's death- His most necessary sacrifice for sinners- we should never forget it's essential connection to the resurrection that followed. If Jesus dies and doesn't rise again, His death is no more significant than the host of other well-meaning teachers or leaders who died for their cause. Jesus' cause is superior to any others. His mission was the glory of God by redeeming those whom the Father had given Him. Such a redemption required that He pay for their sins by His death and rise again for their justification. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are all still dead and lost in our sins. Without the resurrection of Christ, no one can be right with God.

John Calvin quantified the relationship between Jesus' death and resurrection very practically-

"So then, let us remember that whenever mention is made of his death alone, we are to understand at the same time what belongs to his resurrection. Also, the same synecdoche applies to the word 'resurrection': whenever it is mentioned separately from death, we are to understand it as including what has to do especially with his death."

- John Calvin, Institutes of The Christian Religion

Monday, April 18, 2011

Contemporvant Worship

I posted this a while ago, but it's worth putting up again...

It makes me really appreciate historic Christian liturgy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

JC Ryle on Jesus' use of Scripture

JC Ryle (not to be confused with Saruman of LOTR) in his study.

Jesus faced heavy opposition from Jewish religious leaders who promoted adherence to their particular interpretation of Scripture or additions thereunto. Jesus main method of correction was to refer them to a right understanding of Scripture. JC Ryle utilizes Jesus' example to exhort Christians-

We should refer our enemies to the Bible as our rule of conduct. We shall always find a plain text the most powerful argument we can use. In a world like this we must expect our opinions to be attacked, if we serve Christ, and we may be sure that nothing silences adversaries so soon as a quotation from Scripture.

Let us however remember, that if we are to use the Bible as our Lord did, we must know it well, and be acquainted with its contents. We must read it diligently, humbly, perseveringly, prayerfully, or we shall never find its texts coming to our aid in the time of need. To use the sword of the Spirit effectually, we must be familiar with it, and have it often in our hands. There is no royal road to the knowledge of the Bible. It does not come to man by intuition. The book must be studied, pondered, prayed over, searched into, and not left always lying on a shelf, or carelessly looked at now and then. It is the students of the Bible, and they alone, who will find it a weapon ready in hand in the day of battle.

Heschel on the value of the Sabbath for our technological age

No, this is not Gandalf or Francis Schaeffer's long lost brother, it is Abraham Heschel

While studying Mark 2 and 3 where the Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus by their warping of Sabbath observation, I have been looking at the perspective of well respected Jewish scholars on the topic. I found Abraham Heschel's explanation of the Sabbath to be enlightening. Basically Heschel's perspective says Judaism is a religion of time, not space, and that the Sabbath symbolizes the sanctification of time. I'm not advocating the whole of anything Heschel says, but I think his thoughts can help Christians understand the value of a day of rest in the midst of the rat race we call life. Note what Heschel says-

"It (the Sabbath) is a day we can celebrate time rather than space. Our modern technological society can boast of our conquest of space, but we have not conquered the essential ingredient of existence: time. It is the realm of existence where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Many spend all their lives acquiring material possessions but shrink from sacred moments. Everyone needs a time to be able to lay aside the feverish pursuit of success, trying to wring profit from the earth or to amass more goods.

Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world."

- Abraham Heschel (The Sabbath)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rob Bell Theology: Only in America

One of the blessings of going to Moody Bible Institute is the school's focus on training ministry workers of all kinds. It's not a stretch to say I have Moody classmates all over the world ministering for Christ. From time to time one of my old friends comes through Kansas City and looks me up.

Yesterday I had lunch with such a missionary friend from my Moody days, who along with his wife, have been laboring in a war-torn nation in Central Asia for over ten years. They witnessed almost no spiritual fruit for over 6 years before God opened the floodgate of new converts and a growing church in the last 4 years. He and his wife are now switching to a more general missionary support role, mainly focusing on bringing spiritual care to missionaries currently in various parts of Central Asia. Their ten year experience in such a hostile place has cultivated a unique ability that will serve many missionaries and missionary efforts in that region of the world.

We had a good talk about the American Church and its relationship with missions abroad.

Did you catch what I said earlier? My friend and his fellow missionaries saw no spiritual fruit (in the form of conversions to Christ) in the first 6 years of ministry. SIX YEARS!

Rob Bell probably thinks there's no real need for such missionary efforts. Ultimately, why send such a talented, capable couple (and dozens more like them) to far off, war-torn, Muslim dominated countries, when, in the end, God will save everyone? If Rob Bell's notion that everyone will eventually be won to God, even after death, is right, why on earth do we attempt such missionary efforts? Never mind the focus of the Apostles, early church, and vast majority of church history that shows the missionary effort of Christians- it's all for not, thanks to Rob Bell's new wisdom and his ability to wrestle the Great Commission's true meaning away from mean, old, judgmental, close-minded, exclusivistic, "traditionalists", like the martyrs, my friend, me, and the vast consensus of church leaders these past 2000 years.

I asked my friend if he had heard of Rob Bell. He had. He kind of shook his head and spoke of how such theological liberalism (which is what Bell teaches, just with a hipper look and new terms) doesn't exist in countries like the one he served in. Only in countries where it costs nothing to claim the name of Christ does Rob Bell get a hearing.

It makes sense. Bell's ultimate message necessarily argues against efforts to convince people of the need to trust Christ for the forgiveness of sins and salvation from hell. Bell's message is God exists for the happiness and well being of man, so therefore he'll eventually "save" everyone. Bell's God is beholding to man's needs, so He expends his energy trying to win each person over by His love. Of course God is not a loser, so in the end, God must win everyone over, even if it happens after death. The center of Bell's universe is man with God as his servant. Since Bell's God loves man so much- no matter what man does- we need to be about love, affirmation, and tolerance, and not be concentrating on sin, hell, and judgement. Bell has given us the focus Christians have lacked for these past 2000 years. Bell and his type refuse to be labeled as they fling labels at everyone else. He keeps insisting he's not a universalist...and Barry Bonds keeps saying he never used steroids (ok...knowingly anyways). The logical conclusion of Bell's view renders missions and evangelism (where the message is about how man may be made right with God, through Christ's atonement for our sin) superfluous, and really, misguided. In such a light- there's no good reason to go to the far reaches of the globe to share the message of Christ as Scripture delineates. Leave the people be in those places...they'll eventually be won by God anyways.

Do you think believers in North Korea would be comforted by Rob Bell's construct? How about Chinese believers? Can you imagine a group of Iranian Christian college students huddled up in a small house to study the Word reading Bell's book? What do you think the persecuted church thinks of an American "pastor" basically teaching a message that renders their suffering pointless? Talk about all those dumb martyrs in Foxe's book... Actually, I think true Christians in these places of persecution would probably feel sorry for our sad health if they saw Bell's teaching and it's place on the best seller list in America.

True Christianity thrives under persecution because it takes a genuine movement of the Spirit to give people courage to claim the name of Christ. The Church will never die and in fact, she will continue to grow and thrive. The bad news is the American Church's general acceptance of a Bell-like "pastor"and his universalism is a sure sign of the massive decline of Christianity in America. Rob Bell's book and view are unbiblical, that's the problem. The fact that Bell's view is debated in many American churches shows how biblically illiterate and man-centered "Christians" have become.

Only in fat America where we want everything to feel good, even if it's not true, could a guy like Rob Bell get such a hearing and his book sell so many copies.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

$100,000 fine for calling the ref a what?

First off, I don't condone anyone calling someone a "fag", whether it's meant as a "homophobic slur" (what a ridiculous designation) or just a straight up insult, but fine Kobe Bryant $100,000 for calling the ref one? This shows how powerful the homosexual lobby has become.

Fine players for any abuse of the ref, no doubt, but $100,000 for calling the ref a fag?

If "fag" is a homophobic slur, what is "loser"? Is it losophobic?

What if you called a person a "nerd"? Is it geekophobic?

What if you called a person a "sissy"? Is it wimpophobic?

How about calling someone a "jerk"? Is it antisocialphobic?

How about fining the players for saying the Lord's name in vain? That would actually make some sense (Exodus 20:7). Seriously, if Kobe has to apologize for his Anti-Gay slur, shouldn't people who use the Lord's name in vain also have to apologize to Christians?

What a weird time and culture we live in.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

More good satire...on hearing the complaints of "some" people

Let's just say Lutheran pastors aren't the only ones who experience such a thing-

Keeping Historical Theology in perspective

In my studies I have keyed heavily on Church History. I love history and find great encouragement reading authors from every era of the post-Apostolic Church. At the same time, I am careful to keep such writings in their proper perspective. James Buchanan, writing specifically concerning the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, offers great clarity on keeping proper perspective concerning historical theology in the Church:

"The Post-Apostolic history of the doctrine (justification by faith) can only be derived from the writings of uninspired men: and there is a wide difference, therefore, between the Historical Theology of Scripture, and the Historical Theology of the Church. These writings, whether of ancient or modern date, possess no divine authority in matters of Faith, and their teaching on these subjects has no claim on our belief, except in so far as it can be proved to be in conformity with the unerring standard of God's Word."

I love Augustine, but he's not an Apostle. His works have to be scrutinized by Scripture. The same can be said about any of the church fathers, medieval theologians, and reformers. The same can be said about the modern era and her many pontificators...including good ole' Reep.

Trueman on Reasons people go Romeward

As a former Romanist myself, I am curious when protestants convert to Popery. Carl Trueman gives his excellent observations in a recent post. I particularly appreciate his final comments, which I will highlight.

Here is Trueman's post:

In response to my post last week on conversions to Roman Catholicism, a number have asked me what I consider to be the reasons for such. I can only give my own limited take on this matter but here, in no particular order, are some of the reasons I have noted which converts have cited:

1. A sense of awe and liturgical tradition in much (not all) Roman Catholic worship that is lacking in evangelical Protestantism. This is an aesthetic point and not a new one when it comes to the attraction of Rome for some Protestants. It bears comparison with the trends one can see in the Tractarians. It also has affinities with the neo-Gothic movement of Pugin in the nineteenth century, with its romanticized medievalism. I doubt that it is a coincidence that Newman was a great admirer of Sir Walter Scott, or that leading Tractarians, such as JHN and John Keble, were also poets.

2. A disillusion with the lack of ecclesiology in much of evangelicalism. Emergent Christianity was one reaction to this lack; Federal Vision another; conversions to Rome yet a third. All three correctly highlight a weakness in evangelicalism, whether one agrees with the proposed solutions or not.

3. A lack of confidence among evangelicals in the traditional Reformation formulations of justification by grace through faith, specifically in terms of imputation. The impact in evangelical Protestantism of the New Perspective on Paul, and the failure of churches to deal decisively with the challenge of Federal Vision theology both witness to this weakness. Yet Protestantism is built on justification by grace through faith and the necessary reconstruction of ecclesiology which it brings with it. Using P T Forsyth's two generation rule, it will be interesting to see where Federal Vision churches are in forty years’ time; indeed, it will be interesting to see whether some its advocates in this generation ultimately receive Final Unction.

4. The attraction of Apostolic Succession. In an age which lacks historical rootedness and clear authority, those seeking such things find an answer in the kind of ecclesiology which its defenders at least would claim to find in the writings of Apostolic Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch.

5. A lack of confidence in the clarity or perspicuity of scripture. If justification by faith is one side of the Reformation coin, clarity of scripture is the other. The hermeneutical mess that literary and linguistic theory has left in its wake is obviously a problem to those Protestants who finds its claims compelling. Rome appears to offer an answer, though I am not sure that replacing the clarity of scripture with the clarity of church tradition necessarily solves the critical problem.

6. A perception that evangelical Protestantism has failed on pro-life and moral issues. At least one person I know who move to Rome did so because of what he perceived to be the problematic position of allowing for contraception. He saw this as fatally weakening the church's response to matters of sexuality and reproduction.

7. Priests give the best tips on seven horse accumulators. I still remember growing up as a child in Gloucestershire where there was always the annual invasion of Father Ted style priests for Cheltenham Gold Cup Week. They knew their horses and had an almost miraculous ability to calculate complicated odds in their head.

One thing I would offer by way of general criticism of conversions to Rome is the way in which the excesses of Rome in terms of what appear to be folk religious practices - from devotion to Anthony's tongue to Padre Pio - do seem to be ignored by those who are generally very perceptive when it comes to the corruptions of evangelical Protestantism. As I have mentioned before, if the OPC, for all its manifold faults, found out that a majority of its membership prayed to Machen rather than to Jesus, we would do something about it. Not to do so would be to dishonour the name of Christ. Yet when a similar poll in Italy revealed that Jesus did not even make the top three, the RCC seems to have been unconcerned.

That is a huge problem. Not as priest abuse is a problem - every church will have its scoundrels and its scum, at least if it has any members at all, that is - but at a deeper theological level. America might seem a long way from Italy; but Rome places great emphasis upon her unity which does rather abolish the luxury of distance. You cannot boast about the unity of the Church and at the same distance yourself from officially encouraged folk religion, however far away. Rome is Rome, whether you are in Padua or New York. That is, after all, meant to be one of the advantages.

A comprehensive response to Catholicism would need to address each of these areas. In addition, it would face two further difficulties, connected but separate. First, Catholicism is very diverse, as diverse in many ways as Protestantism. In fact, the point that I find least intimidating about Roman Catholic criticism of Protestantism is the one that refers to the diversity of Protestant opinion, liberal, fundamentalist and all points in between. Physician, heal thyself is the phrase that comes to mind.

Yet a book must have a narrow focus and that requires the establishment of some level of coherence in the object of study. Given that most people I know convert from conservative Protestantism of some variety to conservative Roman Catholicism, a focus on the Catholic Catechism would seem a reasonable way of approach.

Second, that Rome remains unified institutionally despite the doctrinal diversity is an indication that dogma in Roman Catholicism does not function in quite the same way as doctrine in much of conservative Protestantism. Ecclesiology and liturgy are crucial. Thus, a book which simply addressed points of dogma and doctrine without addressing this wider historical, ecclesiological and liturgical context is likely to miss the mark.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Michael Gerson on Obama adopting the policies of Bush

I think Michael Gerson wrote a piece worth checking out here.

A sample-

"As a candidate, Obama defined his approach as the opposite of everything Bush. Whatever the issue, Obama would be the photographic negative. But as president, Obama's foreign policy has been slowly evolving toward the views of his predecessor. Obama's pride will not allow him to admit it. His rhetorical imprecision obscures it. But behind the fog is the Bush Doctrine."

Schooling CNN and telling it like it is

Watch to the end, the former CIA analyst schools these CNN anchors-

Monday, April 4, 2011

Buchanan on the Progressive nature of Theology

My doctoral studies have introduced me to many authors I have not previously read. One of the most helpful books I have found is "The Doctrine of Justification" by James Buchanan. Buchanan was a late Nineteenth Century theologian/pastor in Scotland where "he gained a great reputation as an earnest and eloquent preacher of the Word of God." His theological prowess can be evidenced by his 1845 appointment to the Chair of Apologetics at New College, Edinburgh, and later appointment as Professor of Systematic Theology.

Buchanan was a supremely gifted bible scholar, theologian, apologist, and writer. By the time he wrote the book I am now reading, there were several excellent books explaining and defending the doctrine of justification. Sensing some might wonder why another treatment of the doctrine was necessary, Buchanan opens his book with the following rich explanation:

"Theology, like every other science, is progressive. Progressive, not in the sense of adding anything to the truth once for all revealed in the inspired Word, but in the way of eliciting and unfolding what has always been contained in it. Theology brings out one lesson after another, and placing each of them in a clearer and stronger light, and discovering the connection, interdependency, and harmony, of all the constituent parts of the marvelous scheme of Revelation."

Keep gets better!

"In this sense, Science and Theology are both progressive, the one in the study of God's works, the other in the study of God's Word; and as human Science has not yet exhausted the volume of Nature, or reach the limit of possible discovery in regard to it, much less has human Theology fathomed the depths of Scripture, or left nothing to reward further inquiry into 'the manifold wisdom of God.' There may be room, therefore, for something new, if not in the substance, yet in the treatment, even of the great doctrine of Justification, in the exposition of its scriptural meaning, and in the method of adducing, arranging, and applying the array of its scriptural proofs."

It's important to note that Buchanan is not advocating the invention of new doctrines by combining the latest human philosophy or experience with the biblical text. Instead, Buchanan is promoting the never ending study of Scripture in every age. Even if a doctrine has been long settled, new study will be a benefit and further reveal how inexhaustible Scripture is. Buchanan is advocating new treatments of the biblical text, not efforts to conform the biblical text to human philosophy.

For me, life is about seeking God's glory. His glory is His purpose and the story of Scriptures. Wait- I thought the redemption of man was the story of Scripture? Well, it is- but the purpose for redeeming sinful people through Christ is the glory of God. Scripture is God's Word and so the place we must look to find how we might glorify God. In this light, there's no biblical doctrine that should not be continually examined. We'd be fools to ignore prior treatments of the biblical text, but just as foolish to stop studying a doctrine all together.

Robbed Hell- some good satire!

Now this is some clever satire spoofing Rob Bell's promotional video for his book. Of course, good satire reveals the fallacy of the thing it's spoofing-

Robbed Hell - C.A.S.T. Pearls Presents from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Confessions of Pastoral Frustration by Rev. Willie Wonka

When talking to folks about being a pastor I am often asked what is the hardest thing about pastoral ministry. Speaking for myself, there's not one top frustration, two are tied for first. Being totally honest, here they are:

1. My own sin and weakness. I rarely doubt God has called me to be a pastor- to preach, teach, encourage, love, and correct (shepherd) God's people. I am not confident in my pastoral calling based on a hunch or a sense of my abilities, but rather by the confirmation of others and an inward conviction (hopefully based on God's Word and prompted by His Spirit). Despite a pretty solid sense of calling, I struggle greatly with my inadequacies, sinfulness, and ineffectiveness. I have many days where I feel unworthy to hold the office and carry out the sacred tasks given to me and my fellow elders. I preach God's Word and exhort the brethren about the commands of God (always against the backdrop of His sovereign grace), yet I am loathe to obey the commands myself on many days (OK, even my best "obeying days" are pretty sorry). My weaknesses are ever before me (some well-meaning sheep make sure of this) and such is part of my greatest pastoral frustration. To some degree I tie the spiritual health and maturity of "my" people to my own. Contemplating that connection can often bring depression. When I see the stubbornness of God's people, I cannot escape my part in their condition. I am, after all, an under shepherd given a level of watch care over them. I snap out of total guilt for reasonable spells of time knowing that God is using far more than just me to sanctify His people, but my sin is pervasive, even to the point of thinking myself to be more influential and important than I am. My battle with sin and weakness is the primary player in a two-dimensional top pastoral frustration I encounter. I doubt it will ever be different for me in this un-glorified life. My only comfort concerning my sin is Christ (and He is indeed comfort enough!). It further helps confessing sin and allowing others to hold me accountable lest I become disqualified in some way. Being a sinner, even a redeemed one, is a whopping frustration for a guy who's supposed to be pastoring people. I am compelled to preach Christ and Him crucified because I know of my bankruptcy.

2. The stubborn rebelliousness of God's People. The second dimension of the top pastoral frustration is the way God's people ignore God's Word even when it's clearly preached to them. I understand such rebelliousness (see #1), but it's nevertheless painful to watch the people of God ignore or outright disobey the preaching, teaching, and counsel I give them and walk headlong in to pain and misery because of it. I can't count how many times I have warned a dear brother or sister about this or that only to sense or hear explicitly they did not intend to heed my advice. In private situations I have opened the bible and read a passage or two with a professing believer and even gained their agreement on what God has said, only to hear them weave an excuse or explanation about how they will do what they want anyways. In frustration I have said to people, "Why are you coming to me if you know what I will say but plan to do what you want regardless"? I know, someone reading this might say (and trust me, I have thought it many times)- "They must not be Christians." Well, think about that. You do the same thing often. So do I. How many times have you thought just before lying or gossiping or lusting or whatever sin you committed- "I know I shouldn't do this, God doesn't want me to do this, this will turn out bad" but did it anyway? It's frustrating taking hours to prepare sermons, lessons, and biblical counsel-not to mention the constant preoccupation thinking about the manifold issues in the lives of the sheep- only to have it ignored or dismissed. Very honestly, there are many days I wonder if anyone listens to anything I have said to them. I am not ministering under the duress of the biblical prophets, but I do understand their lamentations when they cry out to the people of God to repent only to realize from the ashes that very few are actually listening. Which of the prophets ever really witnessed any kind of whole scale repentance? Is that what God has for my pastoral ministry- to be a prophet without honor? I sometimes feel like Willie Wonka in the first version of the movie (with Gene Wilder). With each disobedient kid that doesn't listen to his urgent warnings, he gets more and more apathetic about warning the next one. I have to guard against thinking my counsel will be automatically ignored lest I get like Willie, who by the time Mike T.V. ignored him and got shrunk, he had no zeal to give any more watch care.

So, the top frustration as a pastor? There are two side by side- my sin and the stubborn rebellion of God's people.

Tony- That's it? You're going to end with this?

No. More to come later. Remember what I said- Christ is comfort enough!