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Looking for Mentors

“What advice would you give to someone who is looking for older godly mentors but has none at home and few at college, if any?”

[This excellent question is another from our college retreat’s Stump the Pastors session.]

This question simultaneously excites and discourages me. Anytime a young Christian desires a spiritual mentor, something good is happening. That desire signals a humble willingness to learn, a realization of the need for growth in Christ, and an acceptance of God’s provision of such growth in the form of mentors. However, the question should also alert us that someone is having a hard time finding such a mentor–that despite the clear instructions in God’s Word, many in the church aren’t making themselves available for those younger in the faith. 

Stump a Pastor: Desire for Marriage

[I’ve kept many of the questions from our college conference’s “Stump the Pastors” session, hoping they would find a good home here.]

“As a guy, is it okay to not want to be married?”

My lovely daughter claims to not like apple pie. So I often answer her simply by saying, “You’re wrong. You do like apple pie. Everyone likes apple pie.” She huffs and gives me her pie.

So it is with some in the church who don’t have a strong desire to be married. “Everyone else is married. Even those who aren’t talk about it all the time. What’s wrong with me? Is it okay to not desire marriage?”

The Evil of Sin

In his extraordinarily useful book A Method for Prayer, Matthew Henry includes a large section on repentance, which begins with these words:

Having given glory to God which is his due, we must next take shame to ourselves, which is our due, and humble ourselves before him in the sense of our sinfulness and vileness…

With many examples, he demonstrates effective prayers of repentance. To the modern reader, what may stand out the most is the acknowledgement of sin’s evil. It’s one thing to admit we’re sinners and name our sins before God. It’s equally important to stare at those sins long enough to own and feel our shame as well as our guilt. (Henry says we are to “aggravate” or poke at them until we see them for what they really are.)

Toward that end, here are two aspects of the evil-ness of our sin which God has recently shown me very clearly.

J.D. Vance – An Insightful Discussion

On Monday night Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, led a discussion with J.D. Vance, the author of the extremely popular Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. The book is a powerful telling of Vance’s own story of growing up in extremely dysfunctional homes, yet moving upwardly in society to become a Marine, college graduate and Yale-trained lawyer. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it, especially as a way to begin to understand a group of people not usually in contact with anything approaching a healthy church.

Here are a few of the highlights of the conversation.

Navigating Transitions

Regardless of whether you love or dread change, it remains inevitable. Save the unchanging character of God, everything and everyone we know undergoes constant change. And beyond the never-ending constant stream of change, there are also times of life marked by even greater change, times we often call transitions. This past weekend I was able to spend time with a group of college students exploring together a faithful way of navigating the big transitions in life. More than anything, I was hoping they would see that being proactive as we head into transitions is more challenging but much more effective and joyful. Toward the end of helping you be proactive in times of change, here are some of the highlights. 

A Vengeful Spirit

Do not say, “I will repay evil,”
wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
-Proverbs 20:22

It’s a drama as old as Haman’s hatred of Mordecai but as current and present as the latest movie trailer. Last night I saw the trailer for a new movie promising the star character’s pursuit of his family’s enemies at all costs. This called to mind the many other films that have followed the path of vengeance, always to my not-so-secret delight. But this morning, Proverbs reminded me, beautifully and clearly, of God’s call upon His people to leave vengeance to Him alone.

Maybe you don’t have movie-quality enemies whom you’re tempted to stalk endlessly and violently, but Scripture wouldn’t repeat this lesson if the vast majority of us weren’t tempted in one way or another to love revenge. So I hope you’ll consider with me the dangers of a vengeful spirit and the different (and much, much better) path to which God has called us. I believe the desire for revenge or vengeance is a current issue facing many Christians and our obedience to God in this area will be one of the most significant testimonies we have to God in an increasingly Godless nation.  

King of the One Liners

I recently began reading JC Ryle’s Thoughts for Young Men with one of our sons. Once again I was taken with Ryle’s ability to bring theology to life with great wit and clarity. As a pastor, he challenges me to think more deeply about crafting messages that can be remembered easily. As a reader, it just makes me happy. Ryle didn’t live in the age of Twitter, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of his great one-liners from the first chapter of this great little book. Perhaps it might also be an encouragement to add this to your reading list. 

Reject the Choice

…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:14-16)

 

Should a church be focused on proclaiming God’s Word or organizing and promoting ministries of interpersonal mentoring and discipleship? The goal of this short post is simply to reject the false dilemma this question poses. 

Us and Them

No one likes Genesis 19. It’s never contained anyone’s “life verse.” Sexual violence and widespread judgment don’t make for good greeting cards or bedtime stories. But God knows what he’s doing and included these gut-wrenching stories on purpose. By reading carefully, we come to see the story of Lot’s rescue from Sodom as an introduction into intercessory prayer on behalf of the church, following the example of Abraham. We come to see the justice of God and should delight to see how his justice magnifies the grace shown to Lot and his family in answer to Abraham’s prayer.

But Genesis 19 doesn’t end with Lot’s rescue. It doesn’t end with a “happily ever after.” It stumbles and trips over itself and leaves us feeling disgusted, questioning the point of telling stories that only make us uncomfortable. Was it really necessary to tell us of Lot’s drunkenness and his daughters’ desperate plunge into incest? 

A Culture of Encouragement

Pastoral burnout is a difficult issue to address – partially because it combines the hard data of how many pastors leave the vocation on a regular basis with the “soft data” (is that a thing?) with issues less easy to measure, like feelings and encouragement and relationship dynamics. I appreciated the recent Mortification of Spin podcast and would recommend it to your listening. 

I’d like to add one thought to this discussion, something based on my own experience. (This was long enough ago that I think I can share it without offending anyone or causing any of my church family to fear for my current sanity.) Several years ago I went through a period characterized by loneliness and discouragement.