Good Luck With That

I saw a recent post on Facebook by my friend Tyrel Bramwell. He was heralding his arrival at five years in the holy ministry. Congrats, Tyrel!

I’ll say that while reading Tyrel’s post, his words regarding the challenges rang true.

It seems as though at any given point on the timeline, as a pastor, I exist in the midst of a handful of volatile situations in my congregation that have more than enough potential for keeping me awake at night—for causing restless friction in my family, impatience with others, and an overall sadness that can pall any sunny day. It’s in these moments when I can easily catch myself at the edge of saying, “I just don’t get paid enough to do this job.”

Interestingly, before I can ever get to the end of that sentence, the Lord so kindly, so faithfully, breathes a bit of refreshing air by His Word, being sure to bolster my resolve with other-worldly whispers of “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:14); and “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10); and “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me… I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:2-3, 33); and finally, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

In those divine reversals, I am reminded that God’s mandates of “Be faithful” are not over-lording commands from an uncaring Master to “toughen up, you crybaby,” but rather they are tender imperatives that bring along with them the viscera-tightening Spirit for actually steering fearlessly into the challenges and enduring them. They are empowering nudges that enable me to recall that by faith, I am the Lord’s, and with that, I’ll be okay. Be faithful. Even if Death is the endpoint, be faithful. Death no longer has mastery over me. I am a child of eternal life.

When the world faces off with a Christian positioned on such a foundation—a foundation that knows Death has been defanged, and as the “last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26), has been ultimately defeated by the resurrection of Jesus—the world had better rethink its strategy against such a person. They won’t roll over so easily.

Say what you want. Do what you will. Attack as you find opportunity. Just know that I have everything I need to keep going. And put this in your pipe and smoke it: Keep in mind that if you would tear me down from such a place of certainty, you would also need to dethrone the One who both won and gave it to me by His Holy Spirit through the Gospel of my redemption.

Good luck with that, tough guy.

And so whether any given scene be wrought with challenges or blossoming with joys, all become opportunities to give thanks to the Lord for His great love. I may be at war with the world, but I’m not at war with Him. That war ended at Calvary. In Jesus, I am at peace with God, and everything will be just fine.

Again, any person, place, or thing in this life scheming against someone who stands firmly on this Gospel had better go back into the devil’s basement and come up with a better plan. And once again, I say, good luck to you.

Stop It! You’re Not Helping!

(A Facebook Post.)

The Church is neither a fast food restaurant nor a service tantamount to a trip to the Secretary of State—that is, a place you visit only when you desire a particular service. In the case of postmodern Christendom, such services are baptisms, weddings, and funerals. As hard as it may be to hear (and barring a few exceptions), just because you were a member of a particular church at one time but haven’t stepped foot in that same church for twenty-five years does not obligate your pastor. Do not be confused in this. Pastors are not in place to punch your “life event” card and give you a receipt showing that your Christian “tags” are up to date. And pastors who do allow for the church to be used in this way, be warned. Even as you may be working beneath the guise of being “loving,” without clearly communicating that love as it emerges from Law and Gospel, ultimately resulting in the fruits such love produces in Man, you are doing the people a grave disservice and making life so much harder for the Church as a whole. You are training human beings to see the efforts of the Church and the ones who stand in the stead and by the command of Christ Himself as negligible, cheap, and of no real consequence to the totality of one’s life.

Stop it. You’re not helping.

If anything in this regard is to be done in love, let it be that you speak kindly the truth of God’s Word, encourage faithfulness to it, and be found secure enough in your vow to hold the line against the abuses even when you sense the heat is getting turned up on you as an individual.

No, you’re not being unloving. You’re being honest. You’re being faithful.