Sunday, September 27, 2009

You're Fired!

Recently I responded to a note posted on one of the ministry bulletin boards that I subscribe to. The situation that I addressed was the potential illegal termination of a staff member at a church. Below is my response. I thought it might be of value to those of you who follow my blog.

I, too have had a couple of "bad" experiences in my 25 plus years in the ministry. The majority of my time in ministry I've been in either the second or perhaps the second to last chair on staff. I feel compelled to address a couple of concerns that have been raised here. There have been times when I felt I got a raw deal, too. But in every situation God was in control. He didn't go out for a cup of coffee only to come back and wring his hands saying "What have they done now?" Father is in and has always been in control!

We are called to be servant-leaders, as such shouldn't we expect to be treated as servants?

Yes churches have by-laws and there are laws in our country that are designed to protect us, but is that what we are supposed to do?? Rely on laws or rely on God?

Remember Joseph? If anyone had a raw deal it was him. From favored son to slavery, to jail, to "second chair" in Egypt. yet in Genesis 50: 20 Joseph says that what men did for evil God ultimately used for not only the good of Joseph, but also his family and entire nations.

Corinthians 61-8 also is pretty specific about not taking a brother (and I believe that could be expanded to include an entire church) to court. I would recommend that in church by-laws, constitutions, etc. add a clause to go to binding arbitration with respected Christians leaders either in your denomination or in your local community.

James 1:2-4 also tells us that the situation we go through (called trials in the Bible) are designed to mature us. Do you and I enjoy these times? No! But in James 1:12, James indicates that we are to stay under the problem. Pray for grace to endure the situation and persevere. Why, God wants us to Grow Up!

I haven't always appreciated what God has allowed me to go through but Father was trying to to conform me to the image of Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 also tells us that the situation that we go through are designed to prepare us for our next ministry. perhaps my worst situation in the ministry prepared me for some of my deepest ministry. I hated what I went through and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, but now I wouldn't trade my tribulation for anything because it deepened my relationship with my God and it has given me a deeper ability to minister to others who have been through similar situations.

My belief is that this is true in this situation.

Praying for all of us in the midst of our "situations"

Pastor Val

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Shack

I love to read!

I have a wide and varied interest in many different genres and themes that I enjoy. From mysteries, to SciFi, to adventure, to espionage, to drama I like lots and lots of different types of books. I even have read and enjoyed the occasional gothic novel – usually because my wife tells me how good a particular story was. I also enjoy reading books on leadership, business and of course theology!

In general I don’t care for Christian authors of novels. I’ve tried to read a number of different authors form this unique group of genres and most often I find the writing pedantic, cumbersome and boring. I have grown up being disappointed in novels that are published by Christian publishers due to their lack of skills and often simplistic plot lines.

All of that being said occasionally I am surprised by some novelist like Frank Peretti from a number of years ago. I was fascinated by the way he was able to weave so much theology into his writing and the how even the smallest reference to angelic being was deeply explored in his series on angelic world and how it intersected our understanding of reality. His plots were suspenseful and exciting and theologically he held my interest and admiration on tackling difficult issues and showing us that there are more dimensions then the three or four that we are used to relating to.

Yes, I know that many of us enjoyed the Left Behind series. I too enjoyed the books and was amazed at how the authors were able to weave a pretrib, premil understanding into their books and many of them were good reads. Toward the end, in my opinion, they suffered from writer’s fatigue and I from readers fatigue in their almost Christian SciFi series of eschatology (end times).

Until this past week I wondered when I find another Christian author who would write a novel that would again challenge or at least embrace my understanding of God and the theology of His plan to redeem the world and usher in the Kingdom of Now and Not Yet!

I finished a novel that was written a couple of years ago and became a New York Times best seller. I can’t tell form the face page how many printings this book has done through or whether or not it was originally available in hardback.

What I can tell you is that I had a hard time putting the book down. Perhaps I’m getting more emotional in my advanced age or perhaps God is making me more tender-hearted but there were times that I wept and times when I soared when reading this book.

Oh you want to know the name of the book?

The Shack by Wm Paul Young

Yes it is a novel and as such there will be certain latitudes that the author will take that some will not agree with, but the broad brush of this novel addresses many of the issues that the World is asking and that we as Christ followers are hard pressed to adequately answer.

Questions like:
Why is there evil in the world?
Is God a wrathful God and Jesus a loving God?
What is the nature of the Godhead – i.e. the Trinity?
What is forgiveness and who is it for?
What does God demand of His followers?

These and many more questions are addressed in this novel by Paul Young.

I have to admit that I am still processing this read through my theological knowledge of God, salvation, forgiveness and living in community with fellow believers and more importantly with God.

I can tell you that much of this writing I resonate with and my soul explodes in praise to my creator as I hear and read the issues he tackles. I can only wish that I had had the ability to articulate as well as the author does his understanding of Who God is and What He wants from each of us.

A brief synopsis of the story is that a man, Mack, who has suffered a life battering experience of the abduction and death of a young daughter, is invited ostensibly by God to meet with Him at the place where Mack’s daughter died. Not knowing what or who he will find at this back-woods shed that has been the sight of the greatest tragedies of Mack’s life, he goes that spends a weekend.

While there in an almost Dickens-like tale Mack encounters a number of personalities during his time at the shack. At the end of the weekend Mack’s life is changed.

If you are questioning God or have ever wondered who God is this book will challenge many of your preconceived notations and ideas about God and whether or not He truly is a loving God.

I hope you will read the book and join me in a discussion!

Serving a loving God and Father

Pastor Val