Dangerous Calling: Chapter 2

This is an ongoing review of Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling.

Chapter two picks up where chapter one left off in Tripp’s care for the pastor and Tripp’s desire that the pastor view things from a relationship with Christ. The problem this chapter deals with is how pastor’s get to the point where things fall completely apart.

Like most sin, it is not a sudden occurrence. Tripp lays out ten signs that a pastor is losing or has lost his way—the way of depending upon the grace of God.

First, the pastor has ignored the evidence that things aren’t right. We are all “very skilled self-swindlers.” The antidote is a daily admittance of the need for transforming grace. Instead pastors often seek to defend themselves, which leads to the second point: the pastor was blind to the issues in his heart. We believe that we know ourselves best.

The third sign is that ministry lacks devotion. I’m not sure why this is not first, but in my mind and experience, it is the crux of the issue. Tripp writes, “There is no set of exegetical, homilietical, or leadership skills that can compensate for the absence of this in the life of a pastor.” The solution: daily admission of need, daily meditation on grace, and daily feeding on the word. Closely related is number four: the pastor is not preaching the gospel to himself. That daily admission, confession, and feeding is not just for others, it is for us as pastors. Do we believe the grace we preach is true and necessary for us?

Fifth, the pastor does not listen to those closest to him. People do ask and people to comment. Are we listening and heeding or are we assuming they are wrong?

The sixth one is also closely related to the third: Ministry becomes burdensome. But if we are getting our identity from ministry instead of from God, then it will become a burden to big to carry because we are incapable of pulling it off.

All of this gives way to the seventh sign of living in silence. “When people are your substitute messiah…it’s hard to be honest with them about your sins, weaknesses, and failures.” The second aspect of this is fear. I don’t want to be known because I’ve built up a wall that I dare not let anyone see over.

Finally the last two come into play. The pastor begins to question his calling, and then he gives way to fantasies of another life. When discouragement sets in, we have one of two options: I was either not called or I am doing the wrong things in my ministry. Since we are often blind to our own sin, the first predominates. This leads us to begin to imagine life in another setting: ministry or otherwise.

What a list to think and pray through.

Associations

Rebekah wanted Jacob to head to her brother’s land mainly to save his life. But her excuse (and ironically, a correct one) was that the women of the land would corrupt her son. We see this played out in Judges. The people of Israel intermarried with the people of the land and “they served their gods.” Some people use that idea today to speak ill of intermarriage between races, but that was not the issue at all. The issue was character. The cross of Christ and its effects in creating one new redeemed man should put the thoughts of race being a dividing line out of our head. The issue of intermarriage is not race. The issue is a relationship with God. We are called to not be unequally bound together with others because of sin’s power to influence and pull down.

A Mind Set on God

Jesus, the night he was betrayed, went off to pray. He encouraged his followers to do the same. They slept and eventually succumbed to temptation and fled when the mob arrived. Jesus remained faithful.

Isaiah reminds us of this truth. He says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” When our focus is on God, when we’ve wrestled with our thoughts and moved them to the father, we can find peace in the midst of storms (or mobs).

The nation of Israel did not do that. We read in the beginning of Judges that “there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord.” And the story of the judges is one sad episode after another of people unable to find peace in any form.

We can chose today to think about all kinds of things. But will we chose to set our minds on God, seeking his peace and his strength for the tasks ahead.

 

In Bed with the President

Actually, they are nothing at all alike.

1. Voting for president—even if we believe he will become the most powerful man in the world—is not as important as choosing to become one spiritually with another person.

2. Voting for president—even if we are passionate about his ideals and policies—does not obligate us to continue to love him if he chooses to change his opinions about certain things.*

3. Voting for president—even if we are super excited about doing it for the very first time, in what people say (don’t they always) is the most important election ever—is not as big of a decision as choosing whom you want to spend the rest of your life with in unconditional love.*

*I am of the firm opinion that loosing one’s virginity should happen only to the one you have married and intend to spend the rest of your life with. If you hold to a different opinion, those three reasons may not make much sense. They are, however, a Christian way of thinking.

Jesus vs. Michael Phelps: Part II

In an earlier post, I wrote about the humanity of Christ. That, however, only tells half the story. This morning I read Revelation 1:17:

When I saw him, I feel at his feet as though dead.

John has seen the Lord Jesus in His glory and it renders him speechless, motionless, unable to do anything—like a dead man. Isaiah has the same reaction to seeing the Lord in glory. When Isaiah, saw Him, he cried out, “Woe is me for I am undone.” 

So while we might not be overly impressed with the human Jesus, might be able to beat him in a foot race or swimming race, might not think he was worth sitting by at the church potluck, much less appear on the cover of GQ, we will respond differently to Him when we see Him again, for we will see Him in His glory.

Michael Phelps has enjoyed great fame and idol status since winning 8 gold medals. He has done countless interviews and appeared before screaming fans. No doubt if he walked into any school auditorium in the coming days, cheers would erupt from those desiring to see him. 

When we see Jesus again, we will not treat him like a celebrity, nor as a good buddy, slapping Him on the back and asking Him how the fishing is in heaven. No, His glory will move us beyond our knees until we fall prostrate as John did. 

Jesus is both God and man. If Jesus held only human characteristics, He would not deserve our worship. If Jesus only appeared in glorious form, we would not be able to approach Him. But He laid aside His glory for our sake, becoming like us, identifying with us that we might be called His brothers. And now He has taken up that glory again. He deserves our worship and adoration. 

I hoped that Michael Phelps would achieve the 8 gold medals. The races were thrilling. But Michael Phelps did none of those things for me. Jesus achieved far more. His accomplishment on the cross made it possible for me, a sinner, to have relationship with the God who created the water and the minds who designed that pool, and the engineers who designed those suits, and the muscles and body frame of Michael Phelps that allowed him to do what he did. I worship Jesus—the God-man.

How Splendid Are Your Surroundings?

What made Scrubb look so Dingy was the splendor of their surroundings.

When compared to the court in Narnia, Scrubb and Jill looked downright horrible. What do your surroundings look like? No, here’s a better question: What do you surround yourself with? Do you surround yourself with splendor? Or do you surround yourself with the ordinary?

I hope you realize that you can make yourself appear better off than you are if you surround yourself with the ordinary—the world. Someone will always come along to whom you will compare favorably. 

But we are not called to that. We are called to surround ourselves with the splendor of another world. When we do, this world, ourselves even, will dim in comparison. Pride will be humbled. That which we thought worthy will pale to true worth. Excitement in the temporary will give way to joy and longing for the eternal. 

How do we surround ourselves with the splendor of another world? In the same way that Jill and Eustace could not get to Narnia without Aslan’s assistance in The Silver Chair, so too, we cannot surround ourselves with the splendor of the kingdom without God’s assistance. They thought it strange the way Aslan got them there. Strange too how we arrive! It requires a relationship with the Almighty. It requires time. It requires letting the Spirit blow us where He wills not trudging along where we will. 

And when we do that? Well, then this world will begin to appear dingy, less tempting. It will feel less like home.

The Fractal Garden

Theology aside, the concept of a fractal garden as created by Young’s Holy Spirit character in The Shack fascinates me. I have always loved mathematics. The endless complexities of this world and the amazing order that accompanies these complexities excite my inquisitive mind. Think about pi: a number that never repeats and never ends yet describes such a simple concept. And those paradoxes abound. (By the way, did you know that the string of numbers in my birthday appears 3 times in the first 200,000,000 digits of pi? To find how often your phone number or birthday or some other random string of numbers appear, go here. Keep reading down that page if you are a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

And so Mackenzie sees “the mess” from his perspective, but if he could take on a different perspective, he would see a fractal. As a wish-I-had-time-to-garden gardener, I would love to play with plant placement having read this, as I’ve always put the tomatoes with the tomatoes and the peppers with the peppers. Aren’t things supposed to have order from my perspective?

I am reminded of how little we actually see of what God is up to in life. Often I see a dark mass in front of me, but if I could see everything, I would see that that dark mass is only a tiny black thread in a tremendous mosaic of color and form and meaning. 

God is a God of order. But He is also the God who knows the order in what we perceive as random, chaotic, hopeless. And so the fractal garden delights me because it reminds me of His character and the fact that He controls the chaos and mess in my life.