Apparently Thanksgiving actually started as a national holiday during America’s Civil War. Our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, presented great insight and guidance that is good to read again as we all celebrate with our family and friends. Here is part of his proclamation.

I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thankful For My Church

I’m thankful for a ton of things this Thanksgiving week, and that includes the church where I serve. I love the authenticity of the people of Faith Community Church, and very much appreciate the way they treat me with such kindness despite my many shortcomings. Just the other day, one of the people from my church shared with me this quote from an ancient church father. They shared it because, incredibly, they felt it somehow described me.

“The most basic task of the Church leader is to discern the spiritual gifts of all those under his authority, and to encourage those gifts to be used to the full for the benefit of all. Only a person who can discern the gifts of others and can humbly rejoice at the flowering of those gifts is fit to lead the Church.”  – Saint John Chrysostom

How many pastors get that kind of support and encouragement? I don’t know the exact number, but I have to guess it’s on the unusual side. Thus on this week where we celebrate Thanksgiving, I am filled with gratitude that I serve such kind and supportive people who are seeking to follow Jesus and be faithful to the mission of His kingdom.

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A Pastor Is A Person, Not A Commodity

The other day I sat in a circle with a bunch of my friends who happen to be pastor’s here in my city. We shared what was going on in our lives so that we could pray for each other, and one of my friends is just burnt. I can see in his eye’s the fatigue that comes from so many years of pastoral ministry. As one who has gone through burnout I can see that he needs a break, and I’m so glad that he is courageously asking his church board for a break. However, my friend shared, “The bummer is that our leadership team, which has never had any awkwardness in our meetings ever, is really strained right now and they are having a hard time understanding that I need a break.” That is indeed a bummer.

Here’s the thing. I learned this weird thing about being a pastor a long time ago. When I first started as a pastor, it made me smile when people would introduce me to their friends and say, “This is Andy. He’s my pastor.” At first, when someone described me as “my pastor” I thought it meant I was trusted and appreciated. While they absolutely did mean that, I also began to discover that it meant even more. Over the years I began to realize that quite often what they were saying was; “This is my pastor who I personally selected and who is the provider of the many religious goods and services I consume and enjoy in this city.” It’s sad but we American Christians almost can’t help ourselves from commodifying everything, including people and pastors. So when I was called “my pastor” I learned that it meant I was being viewed as this commodity on call for to serve someone’s need for religious consumption, but I wasn’t necessarily a human being.

As I listened to my friend describe his predicament I thought of two things. First, I’m moved to pray that his church will treat him like a person and work really hard to give him a break for the sake of renewal and not treat him like some commodity that has to keep working without end. Second, I thought about how deeply grateful I am to the people of Faith Community Church, and particularly my friend Rob Patterson, who treated me as a hurting human being rather than a commodity so many years ago. When I admitted to the leaders in my church the same things my friend is admitting to his church, the people in my faith family treated me as a friend, a human, and a follower of Jesus who needed some help. I’m deeply grateful that I serve in a church that loves me and treats me as a human being, and not some commodity. I also hope that’s how you will treat the pastor who shepherds you.

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My Son Just Bought A Gun

My youngest son has had his eye on this gun for awhile. It’s the Rival XV – 700 and it actually does all that is advertised. My wife and I are not gun owners, but we were okay with our son saving up his money to make this purchase because it’s a Nerf Gun. He bought the latest technology from Nerf that shoots these high velocity rubber balls very accurately. Personally I think Nerf is slowly evolving into a company that’s just going to make real guns someday because this thing is a step in that direction. In fact my sons were showing me online videos that show you, step by step, how to open the toy up and then bump up the velocity of the gun even more. It brings back that classic line from the classic Christmas move, The Christmas Story, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

I know that my title for this post is really click-bait because you saw it and you wondered why my child would be buying a gun. I apologize for the click-bait title, but honestly would you have even started reading this post if my title was “Gratitude?” I’m guessing, probably not. The truth is, after my son bought his new high-powered Nerf gun, we brought it home and started having a lot of fun shooting at targets throughout the house. It was so fun to hang out with my sons just being ridiculous together.

It brought to mind an email that was sent out by a friend of mine, Rebekah Jones, who leads our prayer ministry at my church. She asked all of us who serve on the prayer ministry to read through Psalm 136 as it continually repeats the phrase, “His love endures forever.” Rebekah’s reminder to consider this Psalm has fixed my gaze on gratitude. I am so grateful for my salvation, my wife, my children, my friends, my church family, the call God has placed on my life, the future that Jesus has secured for me, and the list can go on. But this last weekend, as I took aim with my son’s new Nerf Rival X- 700, and smelled the soup Aleta had simmering on the stovetop, and watched the Warriors play like champions, and watched Stranger Things on Netflix with my sons, and looked at videos of my daughter’s first art exhibit in LA, and worshipped with my church family – I was just so deeply grateful for the goodness of God that is completely undeserved. If you haven’t tried it, no matter what you’re going through, read through Psalm 136 and see what happens inside of your heart.

 

 

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God Is Calling

“The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.”

– Frederick Beuchner

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A Lamet For Pastor Frank Pomeroy

Dear Frank,

I am, like you, a pastor of a a close-knit, loving faith community. I don’t know you but I can only imagine what you’re feeling this morning and so my heart goes out to you and your church family. You had other responsibilities yesterday morning, that took you away from your people and your family. You’d coordinated someone to preach and lead the morning worship in your absence, and then you received the most horrifying news imaginable. 26 of your people were murdered while they gathered to worship Jesus, and one of the murdered was your own sweet daughter Annabelle who you described as “one very beautiful, special child.” My brother, my heart feels some of the shattering that you feel today. You’re going to hear a lot of arguments now. Some will argue that we need to address the easy availability of guns and military grade weapons as the main issue. Others will argue that “guns don’t kill people, bad people kill people” and so we need to stop talking about guns and address mental health as the main issue. I feel for you as you will sit in the middle of these arguments and you will probably want to scream at everyone to just shut up, and get busy actually trying to work together to find mutually agreed upon solutions to stop the killing fields on America’s streets, concerts, and now in its churches.

Frank, there are no words from me that make this horror better, and so I have to go to a place that knows how to describe my heart for you, and your church body, on this sad morning. I can’t go to politics, or social-media, or news, so I go to a prophet named Jeremiah, who walked through utter devastation and horror, and appropriately shows me how to express my heart for you and your church body. Jeremiah didn’t leap to arguments, or go political – he started with a groaning lament of what he saw, and what he felt from the horror that he saw.

Frank, on this horrible morning, all I can do is share this lament with you:

“Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, He dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows. He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver. I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long. He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink. He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.’ I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” Lamentations 3: 10-24

 

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Is A Small Church A Problem To Be Fixed?

Is a small church a problem to be fixed? I have had my opinions about this question over the years. I have to admit that for some time, though I would say with my mouth “Numbers aren’t what matters,” I felt in my gut that if I didn’t have the numbers something was probably wrong. But let me share with you this insight from Pastor Karl Vater’s blog. What do you think about his observations?

“For years I bucked against the idea that I am a small church pastor. Instead of seeing it as my calling, my heart and my passion, I treated it like it was my penalty for not having the skills to be a big church pastor. So I consumed every church growth book and devoured all the ’10 Reasons Your Church Isn’t Getting Bigger’ lists like they were a prescription for a disease. And if the prescription was to grow your church, the disease must be that the church was small. Or so I thought.

But the antidotes didn’t cure anything, because small churches are not a sickness to overcome, a problem to fix, or a theological error to correct. Being a small church pastor isn’t my penalty for something I’ve done, or am doing wrong. It’s my specialty. My niche. And, since embracing it, it’s becoming an area of great joy and passion – even expertise.”

You can read all of Karl Vater’s thoughts on this subject at his blog here.

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