Today I turned 44. It has been a heck of a year. There have been many ups and downs, victories and defeats, challenges and triumphs. All that is to say God has been teaching me a lot!
As I thought about what I would share today, I thought I would start what I hope to be a new birthday tradition: to reflect back over the year on the lessons God has been teaching me.
Not all truth is the right truth to tell at that moment. Just because something is true, we should not conclude it is the right truth to share at the moment. We are often tempted to point out where others are wrong. “If I don’t, who will?” we say, justifying ourselves. I have been learning that often the reason we want to “help” in this way is more often from our thinking about fixing them or straightening them out, than it is from God’s heart. More and more I find myself praying for discernment and discretion in what I say to people. I have been learning that for me to give godly care, I need to humbly put my own thoughts aside and listen intently to what God wants me to say—if anything at all.
Living to God by Christ. How you define theology matters. Theology is generally agreed across the board today to mean “the study of God,” and is therefore seen as a primarily speculative and academic discipline. This is not how theology has always been defined. In the post-Reformation and in the Puritan tradition it was defined as living to God by Christ. Some examples of Christians who thought this way are Jonathan Edwards, Peter van Mastricht, and William Ames. Theology is not primarily a speculative academic discipline, but a practical doctrine or teaching that necessarily leads to living a godly life. Christianity is not so much about knowing about God as it is knowing God and living for Him.
Being OK with taking time off. I have always had a hard time taking time off. God has been working hard on me here. If I cannot take time to be with and care for myself and my family, how will I be able to take care of His family—the church? Healthy fatherhood in the home is necessary understanding how to be a healthy spiritual father to my congregation. By not taking time to be with my family and to care for myself, I set a bad example to the people in my church and shortchange my family. At this point in our family life, I have much more responsibility at home with my girls since my wife Mandi has gone back to work full time. God has been helping me see that I need to be home with them more and trust that He will provide the time and space to do my work as a pastor.
To beware of being the “elder brother.” This has been a big one. This lesson began in earnest this fall having read Timothy Keller’s excellent book, The Prodigal God. Instead of rehashing here, I would direct you to a post where I talked about this previously, Things That Make You Go Hmmmm.
Being willing to get into the dirt. This is something God has been teaching me for years, but each time this lesson comes up it is about going father out of my comfort zone. Seeing what goes on in the lives of people can be a scary thing. Choosing to walk with them as they trudge through the muck and mire of pain and suffering (whether brought on by themselves or by others) can be even scarier. But if we would really be living for God through Christ, we will take His grace where He calls us to take it; and He will not disappoint, giving us all that we need to cheerfully give His love and care to those who He directs us to bring it.
Some big lessons. What are some things God has been teaching you? I would love to know.