“A Theology of Risk”

I love the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30. Many stereotype Christ-followers as weak, timid, or spineless.  This story paints a different picture. It teaches a theology of risk. Jesus pictures two extremes for his followers: risk or cowardice. He gives two judgments on his servants: faithful or worthless. The two faithful servants risked what the master gave them in order to gain success. They may have had setbacks…the story does not say. But in the end, the result was spectacular.

Jesus values risk-taking.

Helen Keller once said,

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

To qualify, Jesus empowers risk-taking but it is always done at his leading. If we will follow, he will lead us on an adventure of faith. Risk is born out of prayer…an intimate walk with the Savior. As we discover his heart, we will learn what risks he asks of us.  But risk is demanded of the servant of Christ.

Yet if we follow Christ’s leading, there is really little risk. Courage is needed because there may be setbacks along the way. Following Christ’s leading will invariably bring ultimate victory.

This story pictures two extremes: the successful risk-taker and the worthless risk-avoider.

A theology of risk:

  • Risk doing something over doing nothing. (Accountability demands action.)
  • Risk requires faith.
  • Risk requires sacrifice.
  • Risk requires prayer.
  • Risk requires walking in the Spirit.

I searched the internet for the title of this post and discovered a book on the subject: Faith of Leap, The: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage (Shapevine) by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch.  They cite the above quote by Helen Keller.  Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

Seasons of Life

From Pete Scazzero’s blog…quoting Gordon MacDonald.  I read it and think, “This is me.”  Perhaps another season of ministry life.  I started ministry as a young man and became so accustomed to telling myself “Let no one look down on your youth.”  It is startling to wake up one day and realize that is no longer the case.

“You can anticipate when younger people begin asking you questions they ask a mother or father. If you are over 50, the needle of your ministry life will move from programs to people.  Focus your life on being a spiritual mother/father to younger people.”

via Google Reader (1000+).

10 Secrets of Many Senior Pastors | Ron Edmondson

10 Secrets of Many Senior Pastors | Ron Edmondson.


I’ve been a senior pastor for almost 25 years.  One thing I have realized is that people often have difficulty seeing past the office/position to the person.  I share this on my blog because it is good… really good.  All of these things do not fit me but enough do that I thought I would share it, hoping that it will help you get to know me better.

Here are a few highlights from the list:

“People tell the senior pastor all kinds of things about what is happening in their life or in the lives of others…many we would rather not know sometimes…and sometimes the weight of others’ problems we carry is enormous.”  I do not think pastors mind being counsellors and confidantes.  Just know that when we walk with you through your crisis — and  yours is resolved — we then will walk with someone else through their crisis.  There is rarely a reprieve from this cycle.

“We seldom know who we can trust, which is why we become guarded and appear hard to get to know.  Most senior pastors have been burned by someone they once trusted.”  I shared this list with my staff here at HBC, and one of them asked me why pastors have more trust issues than other professions. I do not know that we do.  Nor do I believe that senior pastors have it harder than anyone else. But I do wonder if pastors are more inclined to think the best of people.  We do not always pick up on warning signals.  Perhaps we have occupational naiveté… which only years of experience can cure.  Unfortunately, I am cured.

“Our spouse is sometimes the loneliest person in the church.”  Most people are shocked by this.  She knows everyone. She is outgoing.  She seems to have lots of friends.  So, why does she so often sit by herself while her husband is preaching?  I’ve always wished for, but do not know how to ask for, some ladies to make it their “mission” on Sunday morning not to let my wife sit alone.

I love being a pastor.  I am blessed to serve a great church, a healthy church, with the greatest people. These things do not reflect on a church…they are just occupational hazards.

So, submitted for your consideration.  Shared for the sake of… vulnerability.  Thanks, Ron, for a great article.

“Angry Church”

Only the second sin ever recorded in the Bible (Genesis 4) happened in the context of worship.  Common sense might dictate that worship would be the last place or time to birth sin.  Worship might seem a preventative.  But if you have spent much time in church or around church people, you know from experience that is not so.

Ever wonder why?

Genesis 4 records that Cain became violently angry when God rejected his offering.  Perhaps he was mad at himself but it seems that he was mad at God.  And anger with God caused him to lash out at another person.  A person has no way to attack (other than verbally) God.  So we turn on people when we are mad at God.  Our anger with God causes us to hurt other people.

That might explain why churches can be hurtful, angry places.  We want to blame God, or someone, when life does not unfold as we would like.  But innocent by-standers often become our targets.  And we unload with ferocity.

In twenty-five years of experience, I have seen the best and worst in church.  When it is good, it is very good.  When it is bad, it is devastating.

Our church recently had opportunity to serve passengers in a train vs. truck collision.  It happened right across from our church and the train passengers were brought to our facility.  People jumped at the chance to serve and they were champions that day.  One passenger, as he was leaving, said, “We saw Jesus here today.”  No sweeter words.

Yet often, conflict is just a decision away.  Try pleasing 400 different people (no, don’t try…that is an exercise in insanity).  Someone’s needs go unmet, someone disagrees with a decision… and the sweet people of God can follow the angry example of Cain.  Murder is not usually the result.  But mayhem can be.

When a person has unrealistic expectations of the church, these moments of mayhem devastate our faith.  “Church should not be a place of anger and vitriol.  Church people should be above all that.”  Alas, church people do not have life all figured out.  They are pilgrims–not disembarking passengers. Disappointment and anger may be worked out within the boundaries of church community.  Often, inappropriately.

Church shows us the best and worst in people.  I guess it has to be that way.  I think this is why so many people decide to give up on church — or give up on a specific church.  But the problem may not be with a particular church.  The grass may not be greener somewhere else.  This is something churches everywhere deal with.  So the next time mayhem rises and the drama gets thick…know that if you hang on, the best of times may be right around the corner.

Or, not.

“I’m Dreaming of a Simple Christmas”

Did you hear about the woman out in California who used pepper spray on other shoppers at Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving night?

Initial news reports said that the attack took place around 10:20 pm.  Employees had brought out a crate of discounted Xbox video game players.  A crowd had formed while waiting for the crate to be unwrapped.  According to police reports, a woman began spraying people around her “in order to get an advantage.”  About 20 people were injured and treated at the scene.  Nothing serious but being sprayed is a painful experience.

In the confusion, the woman got away.  It was uncertain whether she got her Xbox.  Police said she could face felony charges if she were found.

As it turned out, the woman was not charged with a crime at all.  Police say she may have been acting in self-defense.  She turned herself into police who interviewed witnesses and watched surveillance and YouTube video.  They concluded that she may have feared for her life, afraid of being trampled by other shoppers.

I am not sure which scenario disturbs me more.  Spraying offensively or defensively.  Mad rush.  Ruthlessness.  Fear.  Desperation. All for a video game system.

Now, I am not trying to be a humbug.  I’m not trying to say we have lost the meaning of Christmas or that our society has become too materialistic.  Those are all givens.  Christmas is what it is…or what it has become.

In fact, I think we should join in the fun.  Give gifts. Watch our kids’ reactions.  Cannot wait to spoil future grandchildren. Celebrate.  Christmas is about celebration.

But something about the pepper spray story still annoys.  Is it possible to celebrate without the extremes or excess? But then is that second-class celebrating?  Can we do a little less? Should we do a little less?  What message should Christ-followers show and teach and tell at Christmas?

Certainly, not that we want to spoil the fun.  Certainly not that Christmas needs to be somber.  I like celebrating.  But still, something nags at my emotions.  How can we be different?

Let’s wrestle with this on Sunday..

“Christmas Is Coming”

We begin a new teaching series here on the corner this Sunday:  “I’m Dreaming of a _____________ Christmas.”  Geoff Whitten and Darren Brock will help with the teaching this month.  It should be fun as we get ready for Christmas.

Andrew and his team have been busy transforming the platform in the worship center.  It looks great.  Thanks to them for their hard work.

I hope to see you this Sunday as we kick off the Christmas season here at HBC.

So…what is your Christmas dream?

Dealing with Depression – Part 1

In the Christian community, the subject of depression provokes controversy.  It should not.  I wish that it did not.  But it does.  Can a good Christian be depressed?  Many of us feel shame because we do suffer.  Others never get help because they refuse to admit their struggle.  Still others try to tough it out on their own, resulting in years of distress.

I am a depression sufferer myself.  Obviously, this will bias my take on this.  My depression cycles…sometimes better, sometimes worse.  But this is an important discussion to have.

There are three main causes of depression (Comment if I leave something out):

  • Physical issues.  Depression often traces its roots back to physical issues.  Hormone imbalances, blood or brain chemistry faults, and side-effects of illnesses can all be causes of depression.  Physical causes require medical treatment.
  • Life circumstances.  Some seasons of life are tough.  Chronic stressful situations can cause depression.  Trauma can leave a lasting side effect.  Transitions in career, where you live,  marital status, financial ability, or becoming empty-nesters can all leave us emotionally vulnerable.  Adjusting to change or removal of stress can make the depression lessen or go away.  But…not always.
  • Spiritual conflict.  Not all but some depression has spiritual cause.  Some people become depressed because of unconfessed sin.  Some depression results from spiritual attack.  Using biblical strategies to battle spiritual issues works miracles.

These are all legitimate causes of depression.  Depressive responses to these stimuli are not weakness but can be considered normal.

Often, depression sufferers feel alone when they have many companions.  It is not talked about enough but there are many of us.  As there have always been.

In the Bible, many suffered from depression.  Some just for a season and some seemed to have battled it their entire lives.  Who?  David, Elijah, and Jeremiah .. to name just a few.  (For Comment:  who else dealt with depression in the Bible?)

In church history, other well-known individuals famously suffered at the hands of this beast.  Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, Charles Haddon Spurgeon…

In 1866, Spurgeon told his congregation of his struggle:  “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go (through).”  Luther once wrote that “the content of the depressions was always the same: the loss of faith that God is good and that he is good to me.”

Christians can suffer depression.  Spirit-filled Christians can experience emotional problems.  It is not something to be kept secret.  Too many suffer in silence, believing that something is wrong with their faith.  We can encourage one another by sharing our struggles.

In my next post, I will share some things I have learned about dealing with depression.  But let me say here that there is hope.  If you suffer today, don’t be ashamed. You do not have to deny it. You are not a failure in your faith…or a bad Christian.

Need to Pray

I woke up this morning before 5:00.  Not unusual.  As I slowly became aware, I felt anxious.  And I knew why.

The last couple of days, I have let my prayer time get squeezed.  I have prayed but not as long or as much as I need.  I have discovered that I begin to come apart if I do not spend enough time praying.

I do not usually know before beginning how much time that means.  Only after I have been praying can I feel God release me.  The last couple of days, I have not waited for that.  I have just run through my lists and moved on.  Not healthy.

So…today…as I woke up… I felt God drawing me back.  Thank you, Father, for pulling on me and not letting me go.  I write this as I begin my day and my prayer time.  I look forward to this time.  I need this time.

And, thank you, HBC family for giving me the time I need.  Thank you for allowing us to hire a Director of Operations to remove much of the administrative load.  (Todd is meeting with the fire inspector while I am in my study!) Now, I have greater freedom to spend more time like this.  A difference-maker…

I will spend time today with the audacious prayer cards you brought to the altar last Sunday.  I will pray because of the increased movement of the enemy in conflict with our praying.  The Holy Spirit is stirring, and I will spend time trying to listen to the Spirit speak to me.

Pray Ephesians 1:17 for me: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better (NIV).” This verse stuck in that special way recently.  My great desire is to know him better.