From the Desk of the Associate Pastor: Deck the Halls?

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You have heard the debates right? The back and forth between when one can appropriately begin listening to Christmas music? For some not till November, others would say after Thanksgiving. Still others will take a more hard line stance of not till two weeks leading up to Christmas. And then there are those who secretly begin to listen in October or earlier. So, most would say that there really is no right answer, it’s just a preference thing, and maybe that is true, but I believe there are some helpful thoughts regarding this subject as we head into the holiday season.

I first want to make a very important distinction between music genres. In my definition Christmas music only includes songs that celebrate the advent of our Savior while Holiday music would encompass songs that celebrate the secular meaning of Christmas. If a song includes ideas about Santa, Reindeer, Snowmen, silver bells, or chestnuts it probably falls in the secular category.

Now is it wrong to listen to holiday music as a celebration of the warm and fuzzy and nostalgic feelings one gets as they think about this time of year? No, not really, but in my personal opinion, you should not be subjecting others to such music before the 10th of December. I say that half joking, but the reason I want to make such an important distinction between “Christmas” music and “Holiday” music is because this time of year holds such a special theological place in my heart. Now, as a disclaimer, I recognize that December was probably not the actual historical month that Christ was born, but it has become the accepted season to spend a focused time celebrating the birth of Christ.

Let us think for a minute about the ramifications of the birth of Christ. Mankind had rebelled and abandoned their Creator. Even those who were supposed to be the people of God had largely and repeatedly brushed any loyalty to the one true God aside. Yet over and over again God promised to send a Savior who would “crush the head of the serpent,” and would “sit on the throne of His father David,” and would be “God with us,” and so much more. Now the true followers of God had waited and waited for Him to fulfill all these promises. In the birth of Christ, and His subsequent work on the cross, we have all these promises fulfilled.

This is why we have such cause for celebration and it just seems we cannot adequately do this with just reindeer and sleigh bells. And in fact, I believe that in large part these cultural Christmas references largely distract from the true celebration of Christmas.

Brothers and sisters, it is not my attempt to infringe on your Christian liberty in denying you the fun of celebrating the secular aspects of the Christmas season, but please for the sake of your children and for the sake of a lost and dying world, do not allow these things to take away from the true celebration of God with us.

Even though God waited for centuries and millennia to fulfill the promise to send the Savior, He ultimately did so. As Paul wrote to the Galatians: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a virgin, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law.” The implications of this are huge to us. The fact that God fulfilled His promise to send the Messiah means we can trust Him that He will eventually, and in just the right time, fulfill every other promise that He has made to us. That is why I say listen to your Holiday music for a short time (if you must), but feel free to celebrate and rejoice with Christmas music whatever time of year the mood hits you.

Merry Christmas!

My Sixth Year As Pastor

My Sixth Year As Pastor

This Sunday, November 10, 2019, I will celebrate six years as the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. Can you believe it? Six years have come and gone so incredibly fast.

This sixth year as a Minister of the Gospel has been a blur of activities from praying to preaching, soul-winning to soul-care, weddings to funerals, and from weeping to rejoicing. The full-orbed life of pastoring may be many things, but it’s certainly never boring. I know cops and doctors get all the TV shows for how fast-paced and exciting their work can be, but make no mistake about it, pastoring can be just as intense. Indeed, pastoring can be so incredibly intense at times because pastors work in the physical realm, but operate in the spiritual realm. Sound spooky? Make your brain hurt? Yeah, mine too.

Well, what have I learned this past year? How has God continued to mold and transform me? In life and ministry, there’s always lessons to be learned (and relearned), so here are three lessons that I am walking into my seventh year with…

  1. Stress – Like many of you, I have been in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. That’s a difficult place to live. It’s hard to breath down there! And certainly there is great stress in this valley, but I have come to realize that even on the mountain peaks, there is stress. Examples: 1) A lost sinner places his faith in Jesus Christ. Celebrate? Yes! But then there is the difficult work of discipling this new believer in their faith. That produces some stress. 2) A baby is born into your family. Celebrate? Certainly! But then there is the difficult work of raising that sweet bundle of joy and literally providing for all their needs. That produces some stress. 3) A church begins a new building project. Celebrate? You bet! But then there is the difficult work of lining up contractors, volunteers, and getting the work done. That produces some stress. Get the picture? Stress in ministry isn’t simply regulated to the bad; even good things have stress points attached to them. So, at some level, I’m learning that even good things (and the stress that goes along with it) must be stewarded well.
  2. Opportunities – As we go through life, we will have many opportunities. I am personally so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been afforded. God has been so gracious to me. And, like many of you, when you start to take one opportunity after another, like dominoes, the opportunities to do this or that can become…well…overwhelming. There are so many good things to be a part of and do! So, which ones should you take? What is the difference between better and best? When is the best time to take on more responsibility? Should you downsize and restructure first? So many questions…But I think I’m learning that when new opportunities present themselves, no matter how good and intriguing they seem, I must ask many questions, consult my wife (that’s marriage 101), and (of course) pray like crazy.
  3. Pain – I don’t mean to sound nonchalant when I say this, but everyone has pain in their life, sometimes deep pain. I feel like everyone I meet these days has some trauma or great difficulty that they are facing or have faced in their past. This broken, sin-cursed world can be so miserable to live in sometimes. As a pastor, I am learning to “beware of the smile” that people present. Behind many of those smiles are hidden hurts, past abuse, and deep pains. Indeed, hospital elevators are fascinating places. As a pastor, I spend a lot of time on hospital elevators. In those elevators, you’ll meet all kinds of people: excited parents with a new-born baby, a grieving wife whose husband just died in surgery, concerned doctors and nurses with burdens so great (both personal and professional), frustrated patients with more questions than answers, and the list could go on, and on, and on. I am learning that everyone has pain in their lives. Some people’s pain is deeper and more complicated than others, but everyone has pain. What a joy to walk with people amid their pain while pointing them to Jesus, the Man of Pain (AKA: the “Man of Sorrows”), who is always there and always faithful.

Well, that’s a wrap. Year six is in the bag! What a joy to be one of the undershepherds here at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. This past year has truly been a blur with many highs and a few lows, but God has been and will forever be faithful to His character, His promises, and to us – His people. I am looking forward, with serious joy, at this new year of pastoring to come. Please pray that God continues to give me the grace I need to pastor with a shepherd’s heart.