It's Not Me, It's You

“Well, how’d you do?” His mom didn’t really need to hear his answer. His face gave the test results, no driver’s license for him today. Apparently, snapchatting while taking your driving test is an automatic fail.

As everyone knows, nothing about rejection is funny. It’s not funny to be rejected by a potential employer. There’s nothing humorous when rejected by a lover. Rejection from a medical school admissions department will not make you laugh. All seats saved in the school cafeteria is only funny to those already sitting in the seats. Rejection hurts. Rejection confuses. Rejection paralyzes. Rejection has no sympathy. Rejection takes no prisoners. Rejection embitters. Rejection endangers. Occasionally, rejection proves helpful.

Why Didn’t She Ask Me?

They’d been friends since tea party days. Most Thursdays their moms enjoyed good coffee, and the girls went downstairs to a world of dreams and fantasies. The dolls took their seats, and the girls poured them imaginary tea into cups perfectly resting on plastic saucers. Like their moms upstairs, they laughed and told stories only true in the world of make believe.

When the college years came, the young women went separate ways making promises of friendship they’d find difficult to keep. In high school they talked about their wedding days and the part each would have in the others, but when the day came for her lifelong friend to marry, she shared nothing. She wasn’t part of the bridal party. In fact, she wasn’t even invited to attend. Sure, they weren’t as close as they were when they were children, but had she forgotten their love for each other so that even a simple invitation was not extended?

I Was Passed Over

Seventeen years he’d given to the company, working for and with the same boss year after year. He worked hard, grew in his capacity, and took on more responsibility without recognition or increased pay. He cleaned up the messes others made, helped those new to the workgroup, and anticipated problems and solved them so his boss wouldn’t have to. His loyalty was unquestioned and his ethic beyond reproach.

For some time he knew change was on the horizon. His boss was moving on to a new opportunity and that meant the door was open to move up. Nobody knew the department and the product better than he did. While not a slam dunk, he was sure his chances were pretty good to take the career step. But there are no guarantees in business. He didn’t get the promotion. In fact, he didn’t even get an interview. Apparently, upper management already had their candidate, someone with an MBA that was going to do something to “bring a paradigm shift in line with the recent SWOT analysis delivering a change in culture that would prove more customer focused and results oriented.”


How to Handle Rejection

We do need to face the truth that not all rejection is bad.

Rejection can be a prompt to change where change is right and necessary. 2+2 does not equal 5. The sooner you accept the rejection of your answer, the better it will be for you. Not qualified is not an attack on your person. It can be a simple statement of fact. How can you become what’s needed to meet the qualification? Where rejection causes positive change in your work ethic, your character, or your relationships, embrace the rejection as a difficult but beneficial necessity in your life.

It’s not always possible to acquire what’s needed to overcome the rejection. If that’s reality, you will need to adjust your desires. As a child of God, you can trust him to walk with you through the painful reality or to grant you grace in your pursuit of the qualifications. The psalmist wrote, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me (27:10).”

Can your experience of rejection inspire your worship of our Lord?

To us Jesus is the most beautiful human being, but he wasn’t and isn’t to everyone. Isaiah 53 says, “He is despised and rejected by men.” To make matters much worse, our Lord cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus Christ understands our rejection. He is all too familiar with our grief (Isaiah 53:3). He knows what it feels like to be passed over, humiliated, discarded, rejected.

His rejection was not for lack of qualifications or petty preferences. His rejection was because of the failed qualifications of others. His rejection was because of me and because of you. Can you see the wonder of Jesus’s love for you in the deep hurt of your rejection? Could his wounds bring healing to yours?

In the pain of your rejection, remember the words of Jesus, “Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them (John 6:37).”

Rejection is the brutal experience of every human being. We cannot protect our children from it. We cannot execute a plan that always will deflect rejection. Rejection is part of this world, but rejection is not part of the world of Jesus for those who are his.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing

I Love My Calling But Not Always My Job

As I wrote last week, God called me to the ministry of the Word of God, and I love my calling. My job, on the other hand, that's a different story.

What a calling looks like is not static, but often shifts over time. For 13 years my calling found expression as a youth pastor. God did not call me to be a youth pastor; he called me to the ministry of the Word of God. The exercise of the call was as a youth pastor. For the last 19 years God’s call on me has been as a senior, lead, or solo pastor. You’ve seen this, right? You probably know people who served in a local church and now serve in a missions context overseas or who served in a parachurch ministry and now serve in a local church. The calling remains constant, but the expression often changes. The same is true for your calling. It is not fixed. There is movement in the expression.

And that leads me to this thought: while I love my calling, I don’t always love the tasks of the expressions of my calling. Here I want to be careful but also helpful. I don’t want to come off as complaining. I fear that I might. Instead, I want to offer help and hope when the expression of your calling is difficult for you.

  • I don’t like begging church members to participate in church life or to come to stuff that’s good for them. For years I’ve instructed younger ministry guys that they will spend much more energy getting church people to participate in church life than they will in the planning and execution of the ministry or the event. Frankly, it’s exhausting. Sometimes I think to myself, “What’s the use?”

  • I don’t like the pressure of church finances. When I was a youth pastor, church finances were a blip on my radar. I didn’t concern myself with the accounting of church money nor with the income needs of the church. In my current role, I must engage for the oversight of the church. The problem is I feel woefully unqualified to do it. The reality is I feel unqualified to fulfill more than a few tasks that go with my job.

  • I don’t like confronting sisters and brothers-in-Christ about unwise choices that apart from God’s grace will lead to heartache and consequences. Sure, I confronted teens when I was a youth pastor, but often the parents were glad I did! Many times it was parents asking me to talk to their kids. It’s not that way in my current job. In fact, when I ask to get together with someone, regularly they fear the time together, like I’m the mean principal or something. I want people to like me. I think I’m a pretty nice guy. When I’ve confronted people, too often I’ve lost a friend and the church has lost members. It hurts bad.

It’s not easy for me to overcome the challenges of my job. I want to ignore, deflect, or delay each of the tasks. Sometimes I have, and it didn’t work out well for me or for the church. But God gives grace to fulfill my calling in the current expression of it. And he will do the same for you in your calling. For example, if you have kids, God has called you to be a parent. You love being a mom or dad, but some parts about being a mom or dad at the present ages of your kids leave you, as I wrote above, exhausted, feeling unqualified, or deeply hurt. Like me, you love your calling but not necessarily your job. So, how can we respond?

Mental and physical fatigue in my job pushes me to find strength outside of myself. I don’t have any more to give. I am not omnipotent nor do I possess the patience to endure when met with obstacles. I need help to do what I cannot do on my own. What I need is Jesus to provide for me what I cannot provide for myself. I am learning to find in Jesus what I need to fulfill my tasks. I’m learning more about prayer to the Lord and reliance upon the Lord. It’s a slow process, but I think I’m gaining. I hope you can too.

I’m not Jesus and neither are you. I am not fully equipped to execute everything my current job requires me to do. I am not knowledgeable about every matter. I don’t possess the wisdom to make the correct decision on every difficulty or the foresight to anticipate every possible outcome. I cannot fix every problem nor right every wrong. These qualities belong only to Jesus. The recognition of my limitations compared to his boundless person has pulled my worship to a place I had not been before. I hope your limitations in your job cause you to embrace the limitlessness of Jesus.

Jesus loves me. When I experience deep hurt in the responses from people I am trying to help, I am growing in my belief that I am loved by Jesus unconditionally. More to the point, when I sin against my Lord and he loves me still and bears my wound against him, I marvel at his love for me. If he loves me despite the depravity of my actions, can’t I love others when they hurt me?

God did not make a mistake when he called you and me. He has uniquely equipped us for our callings, but that does not mean the jobs that come from our callings will be unicorns and rainbows. They likely will be full of challenges, obstacles, and unsolvable scenarios. When this occurs, we do not abandon the calling because of the job; instead, we fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2)”

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing

I Love My Calling 

Some men talk about a specific day or experience that became their call to vocational ministry. My path was different. From a young boy I wanted to be a pastor. We all have a variety of callings. Your calling may be a parent, child, spouse, professional, laborer, craftsman or whatever your skill set created in you by God and honed by you in years of training and exercise gets you out of bed every day.

One of my callings is vocational ministry. Here are 8 reasons I love my calling.

  1. Nearly all of my closest friends come from the connection to my calling. I’ve served three churches and have deep friendships with men and women from each of those ministries. Had the Lord not called me to ministry, I would not know the amazing people I embrace as brothers and sisters.

  2. My calling stimulates me to read, think, study, and write. Of course, my primary source is the Word of God, but my calling also exposes me to theology, history, current events, biographies, politics, philosophy, and nature.

  3. Week after week I get to preach the gospel and the whole counsel of God to a group of people who want to hear what God says. They just keep coming back. I suppose if they didn’t, I could preach to Brenda, but I’m not sure how long that would last. My calling gives me an amazing and sobering privilege to declare, “God says...”

  4. In my calling I’ve been able to watch the spiritual growth of Christians. Watching and being some small part of their becoming like Christ is a gift from God. Remembering what someone was or where someone has come from to see what they are now is soul-stirring.

  5. My calling allows me to share in the intimacy of weddings as I listen to the whispered words from bride to groom or as I see his eyes as he drinks deeply in hers when he makes his vows.

  6. On occasion my calling brings me in to somber but hope-filled moments when a family ushers a dying saint into the presence of Jesus.

  7. Every time I’ve baptized a new Christian I marvel at the reality that I get to do it because God has called me into ministry.

  8. Leading the church as we gather around the Lord’s Table to remember his death until he comes is one of the most humbling acts of my calling. This last Sunday I was moved to tears as we finished our observance when I looked out at our church and saw them hand-in-hand singing as one their praise of our savior, Jesus Christ.

There are more reasons I love my calling but this will suffice. How about you? What do you love about your calling?

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing

And Then It Was Over

What happened to summer? The Minnesota State Fair is in its second week. This morning, Brenda and I prayed and cried in the driveway for the final time over one of our kids leaving for college. Most of our other college students have begun another semester or a first one. Fall sports teams open their seasons in just a few days, and shopping for school clothes and supplies is the number one agenda item of moms everywhere. I hope your summer brought smiles, laughter, and memories for you and your family.

I’ve never been fond of the winter season. For me, summer cannot get here soon enough and leaves all too quickly. With the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Day, I tolerate winter. My thought has always been, “Live where it’s warm, and vacation where it’s cold.” Long underwear, layers, and heavy boots just aren’t my style. I prefer short sleeves, baseball hats, and swimming in lakes. I joke with our church family, “I know why I live here. I live here because you live here. What I don’t know is why you live here!”

That’s not entirely true. I do know why most of you live here. For some, this is where you’ve always lived, and you love life in Minnesota for many good reasons. For others, this is where your family is, and the comfort and closeness of family keeps you at home. For most of us this is where our jobs are. We live here because we work here. In recent years and over the last few months, a number of our families relocated to other parts of the United States. That’s nothing new and will continue to be a part of our church life. By God’s grace, new families will join us as they relocate to the Twin Cities.

Still, many of you could live somewhere else if you wanted to. One of the great luxuries of life in the United States is autonomy to live in South St. Paul, South Dakota, South Carolina, or Southern California. So why do you live here?

For us as Christian men and women committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, living here is more than comfort, family, or a job. We live here because we believe this is where the Lord would have us serve him. Simply, we live here because we think this is the best place right now to do what Jesus wants us to do. This is where He where He wants us to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-16). This is where He wants us to make disciples (Acts 1:8; Matt 28:18-20). He doesn’t want us on a tropical island, on a seacoast, in the Sun Belt, in Asia or in Europe. He wants us right here, engaged in His work. It’s so easy to long for something else, someplace else. That’s not good for us. Fantasizing about life somewhere else creates a sense of discontent that diminishes our effectiveness for Jesus Christ in the place where we are. As one old-time preacher used to say, “Grow where you’re planted.”

So let’s get after fulfilling our Lord’s will for us right here. Summer ends with the coming Labor Day holiday. We’ve had a good rest. Now let’s get to work pursuing relationships with unsaved neighbors and friends. Let’s get busy teaching younger Christians how to live the Christian life. Let’s care for each other in our church family so that no need we can solve goes unmet. Let’s pray daily and earnestly that the work we do here in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota, will endure for generations.

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing

Yeah, I know I'm Late; Don't Judge Me, Bro.

I watched them enter the worship service, mom and dad with kids in tow. Something wasn’t right.

Mom is as perky as they come; she has a perpetual smile. Once dad has his morning cup o’ joe, he’s the best – cheerful, gregarious, light-hearted, a servant, a good dad and husband. When they entered the room for worship, I hardly recognized the persons taking their seats 20 minutes after our worship began - shoulders drooping, kids plodding, and no happy faces. Who are these people?

“Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder what happened this morning.”

I never connected with dad following Sunday’s worship. I did chat with the kids and mom. The youngest of the three hugged my leg as his older siblings told me about their Saturday. Mom filled in the missing details – nothing about the events of the morning and why they were so late.

Worship over, the building locked and all the doors closed, Brenda and I slid into our SUV and headed to meet our kids for Father’s Day lunch. While I missed dad, Brenda found out about the late family’s Sunday morning. It was chaos that involved a running loaner vehicle, needed because of another expensive repair. I mention running vehicle because the only set of keys were locked inside the car as the family stood at its doors ready to get in.

The poor dad. I don’t know what he had in mind for Father’s Day, but I guarantee being locked out of his running loaner vehicle, arriving late for worship at his church, and trying to find a solution for how to get into the vehicle without smashing a window wasn’t in his Father’s Day fantasy.

As I listened to Brenda’s retelling of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad morning, I was reminded of how judgmental we can be.

Can’t you get here on time?

Nice of you to join us…20 minutes late.

Shameful the lack of respect. Probably stayed up too late and didn’t roll out of bed until the last minute.

Our Lord and his apostles condemn and warn disciples of Jesus about the tendency to make unrighteous judgments, yet we do it all the time. We see a behavior that doesn’t meet a standard, and we assume wrongly the reasons for the failure.

  • We would never be so spiritually immature.

  • We would never conduct ourselves in that manner.

  • We would never allow our children to do that.

  • We would never dress that way.

  • We would never let our children out of the house in that condition.

  • And on and on the examples go.

I am so refreshed by this young father’s commitment to lead his family on the Lord’s Day. He had a ready-made excuse to stay home, but he didn’t. He would be late. Everyone would know it. Somebody may make a snide comment to him or cast a look of disdain, but that would not keep his family from meeting with God together with his church on the Lord’s Day.

I am so encouraged by this young husband’s love for Jesus to love his wife enough to direct her to their Lord on the Lord’s Day. He didn’t let the battle against the flesh defeat him. He would love her by loving her Lord.

We have no idea what’s going on in the lives and homes of the people in our church. No idea at all. We cannot judge what we do not know. We must not assume our conclusions are on target. Instead of judging, let’s come alongside and ask questions.

You look like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. What’s up?

You’re not usually late like that. Did something happen at home today?

I’m glad to see you and the family this morning. How’s life? You good?

The safest place for Christians should be the gathering of the local church. Here, brothers and sisters-in-Christ should find people different in so many ways from those outside the circle of the church. Here, they should find patient, loving, kind, and empathic sinners saved by grace willing to extend to the failing the grace they’ve received and hope to receive from others. Here, they should find those who give only righteous judgements and those who speak the truth with love-glazed words and eyes.

The gathering of the church isn’t always the safest place, but it should be. The church can be the safest place when each of us recalls the extent of God’s longsuffering towards us.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing