I hate sin. It is ugly. It disrupts life. It messes with precious relationships. It confuses the mind. Sin is pervasive and gross. Sin affects us to our core. Sin wreaks havoc on much, but perhaps the greatest area of impact is on the commandments for us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I think that’s perhaps one reason Paul rebuked the Corinthians about their selfishness and division with verses all about love.
I have categorized our neighbors into three relationship groups which I will call neighborhoods. Each neighborhood will be introduced based on its proximity and importance to you. Everyone in your life is equally important to God, but hopefully not everyone is equally important to you, because…well, you’re not God.
We all need a nudge to help us identify who our priorities are. God is not silent or subtle on who deserves our time and attention first.
While I am the main preacher at Redeemer Church, I try to get out of the pulpit twelve Sundays a year for this reason. Now, this isn’t the only reason, but this is a good reminder. Handing the pulpit to my fellow pastors and leaders—and friends outside of our church like Jared Wilson, Don Whitney, Jim Hamilton—is a healthy practice for me and our church. It’s good for you and your church too.
But if rejoicing and weeping are commands, then we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, actually give ourselves to obeying them rather than just waiting for the feeling to hit us right. We are certainly living in a time when there is an occasion to weep with those who weep, so we would do well to consider how we might live out this communal command from Scripture.
A menu approach to ministry is similar to a restaurant. People are offered long lists of programs and activities. Often new ones are added to appease someone who wants something new on the menu. Thus, churches with menus grow more and more complex. And as they do, people can subtly learn a message: “There are lots of things for me to choose from, surely there is something I will like, and if not, I can just ask someone to make me a new dish.”
We had three fulltime pastors on staff besides me. For the midsized church I served, this was a big deal. Ministry should have been a joy. Instead, it was a time of great discouragement. The pastoral team was a blessing, but I did not know how to lead the team. As a result, the obvious blessing felt like an unexplainable curse.
I was preaching through the book of Nehemiah and we had reached chapter 4. As I meditated on the chapter, my discouragement was confronted head-on.
A favorite from the archives:
When we come to the Scriptures, we all have a reading plan. Sometimes our plans are highly structured—think “read the New Testament in 30 days”—while at other times, they tend to be a little more like Bible roulette.
That being said, I’m not a huge fan of most Bible reading plans. More correctly, I’m not a big fan of what they do to a lot of us. Although they are good for getting us reading passages we might otherwise avoid, they often turn what should be a delight into drudgery (or worse). We wind up reading a lot of books of the Bible just to read them and say they’re done, not for what we learn about our Lord through them.