It is hard to be a Christian at Christmas, especially if you are a pastor or leader. These are at least five mistakes that we often make: We skimp on our time with Jesus in our work for Jesus. We speak of profound spiritual realities, but our hearts slowly shrink because we have so much to do. We become perfectionistic. We forget that to be human is to make mistakes. Eugene Peterson says it well: “Perfectionism is a perversion of the Christian way. To impose it on either oneself or another…is decidedly not the way of Jesus.” We do more than God asks. When we do more than God asks, we open the door for all kinds of disorder and chaos. We engage in faulty thinking. Mark Twain once said, “It isn’t what you don’t know that hurts you; it is what you know that isn’t so.” We forget our greatest gift is who. Read more.
Pastoral busyness is a “blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for Him”(Hillary of Tours). I reread Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor in preparation for my sermon last week on Sabbath. Written 24 years ago, who would have imagined how much our busyness would have increased? A “busy pastor, ” he argues, is like being called an “embezzling pastor” or an “adulterous pastor.” Our calling is to pray, bring God’s word out of quietness and solitude, and to listen to others with unhurried leisure. The roots of our frenetic activity come from two sources, says Peterson: 1) vanity and 2) laziness (it is easier to let others decide how I will spend my time). Take a deep breath. Close your eyes for a 2-3 minutes. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7). Read Peterson’s book. Remember: It is very difficult, if not impossible, to lead people to a quiet place beside still. Read more.
The painful images of the funerals of the children from Sandy Hook elementary school is an invitation from God for us to learn to lament. David not only sang this lamentation; he ordered the people to learn it, memorize it and inhabit it as their experience. After the terrible, tragic deaths of Saul and Jonathan, we read: David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow: “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen!…Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon….O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul …How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights. 2 Samuel 1:17-20; 24-25 Eugene Peterson says it well: “Pain isn’t the worst thing… Death isn’t the worst thing. The worst thing is failing to deal with. Read more.