In our church, we are early in a series of sermons on the Seven Deadly Sins, which we are calling Seven Deadly Seductions. A couple of months ago, when we were in the ramp-up stage of looking at this series, Vic Pentz, our Senior Pastor, suggested that one of the things we should do is to give the congregation an inside look into how we as their Pastors nurture our own spiritual life. This was in an email that he sent while he was away on his study sabbatical; I replied pretty quickly (I think I said, “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play”), and thus I became the guinea pig.

We decided to show this via video, and we ran it in all of our worship services last week. In light of the fact that the video could not be seen well at all in the Sanctuary (unless you could see one of the monitors), here’s a link to the sermon, which begins with the video: http://peachtreepres.org/MA_Viewer.aspx?ID=665.

 

 

 

 

2. For the record, I do not think that it is necessary for everyone to begin their day at 4:30. This is simply what works for me and my schedule at this stage of life and work in Atlanta. If you are a morning person, then I think it wise that you start early with God. But if you are a night owl and you do not believe there is a God before 10:00 AM, then I think it counterproductive for you to try and spend time with God in the early morning.

3. That said, I think it incumbent on each follower of Jesus to identify their best time of the day, and give a part of that time to God. If you’re an early bird, then get up early. If you’re a night owl, then stay up late. My best hours of the day are between 6:00 and 11:00 AM; from there I go downhill, until I turn into a pumpkin at 9:00 PM. You may be quite the opposite. Find your best time, and give that to Him.

Just don’t rob your family, if you have one. I recall years ago listening to a woman talk admiringly about her husband’s devotional practice, but it was obvious that her admiration was paired with a simmering anger that he would come home at the end of a day, when they had small children, and lock himself in their bedroom (alone) while he read Scripture and prayed. She needed his help with their children; he was using God as an excuse to avoid spousal responsibility. For the record, this is one reason I have sacrificed sleep for time alone with God, so I can be available to my family when I am needed.

4. Spending time with God is not rocket science; simply read the Bible-systematically or progressively, not haphazardly. Read a chapter a day, working your way through a book of the Bible. Start with one of the Gospels, if you’ve never done this. Read slowly, sometimes repeating the chapter several times. Let yourself imagine what it would be like to hear this for the first time, or to live through the events yourself.

Then pray. Just pray. Thank God for your blessings, admit your faults, marvel at creation and the fact the God loves you enough to listen. THEN take your shopping list to Him.

And for the record, there is no little, tiny, itty-bitty detail of your life that God is not concerned with. He’s simply waiting for you to tell Him about it.

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I was reading “A Pastoral Rule” this morning, which is a document being adopted and encouraged by the Fellowship of Presbyterians (a theologically conservative group of Pastors and Churches who are exhausted by political fights within the church and simply want to make a difference for the Kingdom of God). The Rule essentially challenges Pastors to be Pastors, not tradesmen in jobs; really people who are invested spiritually in what they do, and refuse to “phone in” ministry.

I have known of Pastors who did that–they “phoned it in,” downloading sermons from the internet and passing them off as their own work, or using sermons from YEARS ago, and not even updating illustrative material.

Yet in the Rule, when I read this section, it struck me as something that with a little change, could apply to us all:

  Every pastor faces moments of boredom in ministry, and few pastors escape moments of conflict with a congregation.  We sometimes imagine that boredom or conflict means that we are supposed to leave for another place of ministry. But boredom and conflict are inevitable parts of life.  When they appear, they may present an important, even if sometimes painful opportunity to reflect again on whom God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to do.
  If you do not reexamine your call regularly you can become complacent, or discouraged by doubts about the effectiveness of your ministry.  Seek out people who can help you reflect on your call, and assist you to focus time and energy on the heart of the pastoral calling – proclaiming the gospel of Christ by interpreting it faithfully in your preaching, teaching, and pastoral care.

So whatever it is that you do–teach High School, sell widgets, process mortgages, review and argue legal cases, vacuum floors, cook meals–odds are, everyone gets bored with life, with what they do, and how (and maybe why) they do it. The key here, it seems to me, is that it is far too dangerously easy to do whatever it is we do (or YOU do) in isolation. Sure, you may be surrounded by people, but for whatever reason, you don’t let anyone “look behind the curtain.”

Theologically, I am a part of a tradition that believes everyone is called. Not just preachers and doctors, but accountants, sales people, teachers, nurses, you name it. What’s your calling? Are there rough patches along the way? Guess what: there always will be. Find a friend (not another bored or disgruntled colleague) who can and will listen to you, and is a good enough friend that they will tell you the truth, even if it hurts. You’ll be far better off if you do that.