Angry pastors scare me.

Pastors live on the outside spectrum of emotions. We are either overly happy, overly excited, overly concerned or overly angry. A lot of times we are overly angry, about what other people are doing, what they are saying, how they are voting, etc.

I don’t usually hear pastors get up on stage and talk about how angry they are about what they see as sin in their own life. They are just angry about what everyone else is doing.

A few weeks ago on the way to church I stumbled upon one such pastor on the radio he was so angry.

About everything.

He was yelling and condemning all sorts of people.  He said at one point something to the affect of: this is just how God feels about sin…

I was a little embarrassed.

Angry pastors scare me, 

That is because have a lot of friends who wouldn’t consider themselves followers of God. They know I am a pastor. I wondered what would happen if they turned on the radio and heard this guy. What would they think that I think about them? What would they think God thinks about them?

The other morning I heard my son on the baby monitor. I hear him every morning, but this morning it was a bit different.

He was sitting down crying, dada… mama… dada… mama

I walked into get him and he was upset when I opened the door. The room smelled really bad.

I walked over to his crib and saw that he clearly had a stomach bug. He had diarrhea that had come out of his diaper and was on his bedding too.

It’s at this moment I had a decision… do I call my wife in? Do I leave him and say, “clean it up yourself?” Do I pick him up?

It wasn’t even a decision.

I immediately picked him up and hugged him. I called his mom into the bathroom and she cleaned him off in the tub while I took his bedding to the wash.

That morning I though, as simple as that story is, it helps me see God, and how God sees me, so much clearer than some angry guy on the radio.

Perry Noble talks about a similar story in his book, Unleash.

My son couldn’t get out of his crib, couldn’t get out of his mess, couldn’t hide is mess, and needed his father to pick him up, clean him up, and clean his mess up. And when I heard him, I ran in to get him.

Two thoughts wreck me when I think about God and how he sees my sin.

1. He is fed up with my sin

2. He is embarrassed by my sin. 

And it is there that I miss grace.

Grace says, you can never fall too far, mess up too much, push away too hard. I will always be there.

When I walked into Patrick’s room, it smelled, it was a mess, and he looked up at me and said, “dada, out?”

There wasn’t an option in my mind. I picked him up, pulled him close, and said that I was going to take care of him. 

But Danielle and I didn’t just clean Patrick up then throw him back into his crib with a rag and a bucket to deal with his own mess.

We cleaned it up.

So when we laid him back down, his sheets were clean, his room smelled nice and he knew he was loved. 

But we also don’t hold it against him.

The only time we may bring it up is when he is older and we could joke about it. We would look back and laugh and talk about his he has grown. 

I know it is important to talk about repentance when we sin.

I know it is important to talk about conscious decision-making.

But at the end of the day, I think God wants us to know first that he is there no matter what, and he loves us no matter what.

I so often can think that when I mess up, God must be embarrassed with someone like me doing something like that.

The reality is God has seen it all.

He isn’t embarrassed. 

He doesn’t run. He doesn’t leave you to your own mess.

Gods not embarrassed by your sin.

God’s heartbroken by it. 

And what he wants to do is pull you close, clean you up, tell you everything is going to be ok, and give you a fresh start. 

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You can’t have Christmas without shepherds

If you know the Christmas story at all, you know it is not complete without the inclusion of the faithful shepherds who tended their flock late at night until they heard of the baby Jesus’ birth and went to see him.

My son recently received a children’s plastic nativity. Sure enough it came with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus who he affectionately calls “baby Jeeze”, and, or course, a shepherd with his sheep.

You just can’t have Christmas without Shepherds.

Why the shepherds?

I have never invited Shepherds to any of my birthday parties.

Shepherds are sort of conspicuous guests at the new baby’s birth.

In the first century shepherds were regarded as the lowest of the low. They were unclean and lived in the fields with their flocks. In some Jewish circles they were considered untouchables and subjected to segregation and prejudice from the community.

When Luke tells us that angels came and proclaimed to a group of shepherds that a baby wrapped in a manger was to be the savior of the world, the shepherds response would have likely been like:

Yeah, but not for us.

We are shepherds.

We aren’t who you want.

The religious leaders are just down the hill over there. They are going to be psyched!

The king is in his palace. He would like to know about this I am sure.

But God came to shepherds.

If he had gone to the priests, people would have thought: Of course! They are priests, God wants to meet with them.

If he had gone to the king, the rich, and the rulers, people would have thought: Of course! They are prosperous, they are rich, they are the elite! God wants to meet with them.

But when people heard that the shepherds were on the guest list, they would have been like, shepherds? Is that a typo? Did God make a mistake? What could he possibly do with them?

We miss this because our yard decorations all include plastic people with plastic sheep alongside the plastic baby Jesus. Most of us don’t know that back then you wouldn’t have wanted to be associated with a shepherd.

But you can’t have Christmas without shepherds.

After the shepherds heard about the news of Jesus, they wanted to go see for themselves.

They left running. Running was very undignified in the first century. People just didn’t run. But these shepherds did. This was finally the opportunity they had to be part of something.

No one talked to them. No one included them. But God was letting them into the circle.

They found Mary and Joseph and Jesus just as they had been told they would. Then they left and told everyone they met about the angels and about the child and everyone was impressed.

These guys who were to never had a role about shepherds because the pioneer evangelists. They were the ones who God used to begin spreading the word. And instead of being turned off or disgusted, people were impressed. 

They had never impressed anyone. They were the least likely people to impress people.

They let the world know about Christmas.

You can’t have Christmas without Shepherds.

Luke finishes this portion of his retelling by saying that it turned out exactly as they had been told. 

It takes a big risk to believe what God says.

It takes a big risk to go and see for yourself if this Jesus is really who he says he is.

It takes a big risk to overcome the disappointment that it could all be false.

It takes a big risk to step out and tell people, especially when you are the last person that God would ever want to talk to.

You are the last person God would ever want to use.

You are the last person he would want to include because you are the last person anyone else would include.

But you can’t have Christmas without Shepherds.

God went to the least  of the people because he wanted to send a message:

THIS IS FOR EVERYONE.

No matter where you are from, what you have done, what people say about you, what you do for a living, or how far away form God you are, God starts with you.

So what did God want with the lowest of the low? What did God want with Shepherds in the field?

He wanted to change the world. He wanted to send a message that his baby was to be for all people. It wouldn’t be such good news if it was only for some people. It wouldn’t be good news if it was only good news to the right people. But it was, and is, and always will be good news for all people.

If you are willing to risk it, God wants to use you in remarkable ways too.

We are all shepherds.

And you can’t have Christmas without shepherds.

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When we are terrible at being Christians

­I have a confession.

I have been watching The Voice lately.

Let the public stoning commence.

I don’t watch it all the time, but when it is on, I keep it on. If you haven’t seen it, some of the contestants are really incredible singers. My son Patrick also loved dancing around the room when people sing.

The show welcomes young vocal talent to audition while 4 professional judges sit with their back to the singer. If the singer is good enough, the judge turns their chair around and tries to convince the singer to join their team for the season.

The judges are all successful musical acts, but they don’t sing, they coach. They train up the musicians until the next show and then the musicians preform on their own. It’s just them out there. The lights come on, the band kicks in, and the judge and coach is over in the chair not on the stage.

Sometimes I find myself seeing God this way. He is there to coach me, to give me insight, but when the spotlight is on, I am on my own out there. And he will let me know if I succeed or fail.

Pastors do this so often. If the sermon was great, all the credit goes to God. If it was terrible, that falls squarely on us.

I think I kind of suck at following Jesus sometimes. I know I am the only one who feels that way.

Many Non-Christians think they could never preform for God, or never would want to. Many Christians worry that their performance is never good enough.

Christians can get so caught up in our performance that we trade partnering with God to preforming for God.

And that is when we are terrible at being Christians.

I gain a lot of confidence when I read the Gospels however, because I read about how the disciples were sort of terrible at following Jesus too.

In Mark 8, Jesus had this huge crowd come to see him speak. He didn’t even have to offer them pizza or coffee, or comfortable chairs. They actually didn’t have any food there. And there were four thousand of them!

And they got hungry.

Jesus didn’t send anyone to the store. He didn’t send someone to fish. Jesus took seven loaves and a few small fish and fed four thousand people.

Miraculously.

Everyone had enough food, and there was some to spare.

Next, Jesus and his close followers got onto the boat.

The disciples realized they had only taken 1 loaf of bread. At that point they are likely blaming each other for not remembering to bring the food. They know it wont be enough for the whole crew for the trip.

Seriously?! Jesus literally just few four thousand people with a few bits of food and these guys are moments later trying to figure out how there are going to eat.

They so quickly forgot what God had done in place of remembering what they think God can’t do.

Jesus knew what they were saying so he reminds them, “watch out of the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

They thought Jesus said that because they didn’t bring enough bread.

So Jesus chimes back in, reminding them of how he made food when there was not food, how he fed everyone, how he came through.

The Pharisees and Herod were not baking companies or yeast merchants, these were people who refused to see who Jesus for what he was. And Jesus knew that his disciples were missing it too.

And Jesus wanted to remind his disciples who he is.

and he wants to remind us who he is when we forget what he has done in place of remembering what we thing he can’t do.

He isn’t a judge. He isn’t sending you on stage on your own. He is going ahead of you and he is there with you.

We miss what God is doing because we are focused on what we are doing. We miss that God can feed four thousand because we worry how we are going to feed twelve.

If we want God to do big things in, through, and around us, we have to give up the small things we are too focused on. 

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