Monday, October 29, 2012

I Appreciate You, Pastor

A repost from last October. Still relevant!

I've been a pastor for a little over 16 years. I've told people in the past that I'm a pastor because, 1) I feel I've been called by God to be a pastor and 2) I don't know what else I could do (or would want to do) with my life.

I first served as a pastor in a rather small parish in rural Michigan. A lovely church called Christ Lutheran Church. The people there were very welcoming and the call came with a nice home for my wife and I and our dog Seamus - and a year after we arrived, our first son, Eddie.

After two years there, I received a call to serve as Associate Pastor at a larger church -with a school - in Mayville, Wisconsin. I served under a very experienced Senior Pastor who was soon to retire. It was made clear to me that I would succeed him as Senior Pastor when he retired, and that is what happened two years after I arrived. While there, my wife and I welcomed Kurt and Mark to our family.

After 8 years in Wisconsin, I was called to Southern California and served a similar parish for exactly four years. I was a sole pastor for two years, and a Senior Pastor for two years while in California -with an Associate Pastor of Indonesian Ministry.

A little over a year ago my family and I left California to return to Illinois where I grew up. I was helping out in a local church and within a year was called to be the Assistant Pastor.

I mean no disrespect to the pastors I was privileged to serve with in previous parishes, but for the first time I am serving in a church where I feel that I have a pastor of my own. I was the pastor or on a staff of pastors in previous parishes. But I never really felt that I had a pastor who I could talk with, pray with, and be counseled by, before.

I do now.

Pastor Tim is someone I've known for about 10 years. But now that I am serving in a church with him, I have gotten to know him pretty well.

And I am very glad to call him my pastor.

Pastor Tim prays with me. That's huge. I never realized before just how powerful it is to have a pastor pray with me. I've prayed with people, as their pastor, but I've never prayed with someone who was my pastor (again, no disrespect meant to the pastors I had when I was a young boy and young man).

Pastor Tim also gives me advice. He tells me when I've messed up - in a loving, gentle, but instructive way.

Pastor Tim also teaches me how to be a better man, a better husband, a better father, and a better pastor. He shares with me his own experiences in each of those areas. He gives me "back-up" from God's Word. He administers the Sacrament of Holy Communion and pronounces Holy Absolution when I confess my sins to him.

So, during this month of October - Pastor Appreciation Month - I want my pastor (and you) to know that I appreciate him!

Heavenly Father, we thank you today for your work in creation and the abundant blessings that we have as Your children.

We thank you for the glorious gospel; the gift of your Son Jesus Christ as the one mediator between God and man.

Thank you for the church, the company of the redeemed, and for the local church where believers gather to express their faith and obedience such as we do here at St. Matthew.

Thank you for the gift of pastor, which your Word says you gave to your church "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12, 13).

Thank you for Pastor Tim and his faithfulness to your cause, for the Bible says, "it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Thank you for his personal commitment to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savoir and to the Word of God.
Thank you for the love he has for his wife and family demonstrating a stable and healthy family.  For the Scripture says of church leadership, "he must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect" (1 Timothy 3:4).

Thank you for his thoughtful exposition of your Word, as he heeds your call to "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2).

Thank you for his leadership in our church services and the orderly manner in which he leads us, seeking to fulfill the Biblical call that "all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Thank you for his interest in the flock under his care and the burden that he carries for your people.
Thank you for his wife Deb and her compliment to his leadership and her service and thoughtfulness as well.

May you continue to bestow your richest blessing upon this ministry couple as they seek to fulfill their call amongst the people of St. Matthew and thus bring You glory.

In the powerful name of Jesus Christ I pray, AMEN.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Making Treasure from Junk

Image10082012101242Don is an older gentleman who I recently visited at his home. He’s the dad of one of my very best friends. Don and his wife Jane still live in the same house that I used to visit when hanging out with their son when we were in high school.

Don is in his 80’s now. He suffered a stroke a couple of years ago but has recovered pretty well. When I visited him, he and his lovely wife and I caught up on what was happening in our lives. I could tell, however, that Don was waiting to tell or show me something that meant a lot to him.

All through the first part of our visit he had a twinkle in his eyes and he could barely sit still because he was excited. I finally asked, “So, what are you doing these days?”

Don jumped up and said, “Let me show you!”

He led me down to the basement, to his workshop. In his workshop were table saws, lathes, power grinders, and tools. Hanging from the beams were old, big keys – like the kind that open dungeons. Old spoons, knives, and hand tools were displayed on boards, stored in open boxes and scattered on the work bench.

Don and Jane visit antique shops and events through the Midwest and collect rusted tools, knives, utensil and the like. Don then takes them back to his workshop, cleans them up, and re-sells them at antique shows. As Don was showing me his workshop, I could tell that he had a passion for this. As I thought about it later, I came to the realization that I wanted to have that kind of passion about something – and I do.

Cleaning up bits of junk and old tools isn’t something the world would find worthy of time or passion, and maybe in and of itself it isn’t. But for Don it is something that he can do with his time, his hands, and his mind. He can give himself to this activity. His reward is to see something beautiful come from something that had been rusted, dirty, and discarded. He makes treasure out of junk.

And, of course, this is exactly what God does with me. He took a broken, sinful man, and made me a husband and father and pastor. Not that I think I’m some kind of treasure, but I do treasure the calling God has given me in all three of those areas. I’m able to love – and be loved – by a beautiful woman. I’m able to love and share and cultivate three young men into men of God. I’m able to teach and preach about the love of Jesus Christ with people at my church and in my community.

When Don is able to grind and buff off the rust of a 100 year old hand tool, he makes it new and usable again. I’m thankful that God continues to do that to me, too!