Bright Lights and Dark Nights

Did you know that pastors resign on Monday more than any other day of the week? This comes as no surprise to me after 15 years of ministry. Sundays are often filled with ups and downs. I want to say from that outset, I wouldn’t trade days like this because I know the peace of Christ that always comes in the end.

Dark Nights

Yesterday, on Superbowl Sunday, I kicked off a sermon series on the book of Colossians. I spent hours during the week doing what I love: reading, studying, praying, and planning. I was excited to break open the incredible book of Colossians and launch our Free At Last series. The notes were set, the songs were rehearsed, the prayers were prayed. Then…

Before service I prayed for a family who unexpectedly lost a close family member that weekend. Then… I preached. Then… the service didn’t go as planned. Then… I remembered I planned a meeting, but had no car to get home after the meeting. Then… as the Broncos and Panthers kicked off I spent time at the hospital with a mother who was standing bravely by her son who suffered life threatening injuries the day before. Then… during the 2nd quarter I was on the phone diffusing a ministry situation. Then… by half time my wife, who has a brain cyst, couldn’t open her eyes as pain crushed her head and took over her body.

The avocados sat untouched. The uncooked burger patties are still in the fridge as I write this.  Amy’s pain has not ceased and she has barely been able to move for over 16 hours. These are the Monday Blues that squeeze me through the crucible of life and pastoral self-pity. But God (<– I love that phrase) being rich in mercy and kindness, sent bright lights to guide me through a dark night.

Bright Lights

Without bright spots, this job would be unbearable. I believe that God is THE brightest light, and he graciously gives us other tangible brights spots of hope and encouragement when we most need them.

#brightlight 1 Authentic Friendships
First, my car-less meeting ended with a church member waiting an hour after service ended and not only giving me a ride, but treating my family of five to lunch. Not only did they buy lunch, but they loved my kids who acted like destructive disobedient terrorists most of the lunch. I call them friends, but I think I’ll just call them family from now on!

After lunch a church member called me and shared some concerns he had about things at the Chapel that he disagreed with. I loved this! Most people that don’t like something or disagree with me just leave the church and they usually bring a wake of gossip and anger as they do so. This friend called and shared his heart, which I greatly valued. When the conversation ended I was filled with great love and appreciation for this man and his family. Regardless of how the situation resolves, I am grateful for the maturity and grace shown. He sought to talk it out rather than leave with no notice. I felt like a true friendship was born between us. The kind where people can talk no matter and put God’s love on display. We started the conversations as friends, but I ended the conversation feeling like I gained a brother.

#brightlight 2,3,4,5,6…. Encouraging words
This post circulated Facebook prior to Superbowl week…12644941_1128594813831487_8788332918335160861_n

 

… and being a youthful fun loving pastor I liked the fact that it was posted on my wall/or that I was tagged on the meme a half dozen times. I never expected it to actually happen.  As the afternoon set in, I wondered if the hours of music rehearsal and sermon preparation would be overshadowed by a confetti filled gatorade tub (This is kind of stuff pastors worry about, oh me of little faith). Then God sent bright light after bright light to encourage me and wash away my fears.

“Thank you for today’s sermon. It helped me recalibrate my life based on God’s love.” 

“Yesterday’s service was wonderful! Don’t be discouraged… It just means God is doing something great here.”

“Hey brother! Great job today…. It’s amazing how you know what to preach about and what God’s people are needing to hear. God is moving at the chapel. Keep up the good work. We love you!!!!”

“For most of my life I identified as a gay man that God must be mad at. Only after hearing sermons of God grace, like this one today, could I truly find my identity in Jesus. Thank you.”

“I’ve been stuck [a sin] for a long time. Today I realized that I can’t beat my sin, but knowing that Jesus beat the sin for me gives me hope to move forward and trust that God will set me free from it.”

… many more messages like these ensued!

Although the gatorade confetti distracted my heart for awhile I have to smile at the video comment now, “Great sermon Pastor Ryan, great win for Jesus.” 

That’s the brightest light of all. The Chapel won’t be a church for everyone, but as long as God has me in the pulpit it will be a church where great wins for Jesus will always be central. We will make mistakes. If history is an indicator, I will make a lot them, BUT Jesus will always be central. His gracious forgiveness of sinners like me and you will ALWAYS be central. Helping people see the truth of the gospel will ALWAYS be central. When I tell the Chapel family we are all about Jesus… I really mean it.

This means we’re all about the forgiveness of sin. We’re all about obeying God as a result of being forgiven of our sin through Jesus. We’re all about giving grace toward others because God gives grace to us in Jesus. We’re all about serving others in love because God first lovingly served us when he sent Jesus to live the perfect life we could never live and die the death we deserved to die.

We are all about Jesus!

When my head hit the pillow last night, I smiled myself to sleep knowing that no matter what comes tomorrow, Jesus is under me, above me, around me, before me, ahead of me, lives in me, and loves me no matter what because I am in him.

What a good day to be loved by God.

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