I’m a gift to pastors…and not for the reason you think.
MARCH 28, 2023
I’m a gift to pastors…and not for the reason you think. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He’s an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life. A program all about God’s radical grace. We’re committed to bringing you Bible teaching that’s honest, straight-forward, and street-smart. Keep listening to hear truth, that’ll make you free.
Thank you Matthew. We’re looking at laughter, the flip side of lament, the flip side of tears, the flip side of darkness, the flip side of pain. Life is hard and then you laugh. And we spent a long time talking about laughter and God’s laughter and people’s laughter. And if you’re listening yesterday we talked about forgiveness. If you know you’re forgiven, you can laugh. No, I don’t mean if you straighten up, I’ll forgive you. If you will be properly and sorrowfully repentant, I’ll forgive you. But you’re forgiven. Now, that’s a source of joy and laughter. I ended yesterday by telling you why I pray because it’s the one place I can be honest. And I can be honest because the Scripture says.
That we have a high priest
this is Hebrews 4:15
who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses and in every respect has been tempted as we are without sin.
In other words, Jesus has been there, he’s done that, and understands. We have thousands of pastors on the Key Life mailing list, so I spend a lot of time talking with, praying, laughing, weeping with pastors. If you aren’t a pastor and you call Key Life, I probably won’t see what you wrote or be able to talk. There are so many letters and e-mails and phone calls that it’s impossible for me to deal with them personally. And I hate that, I wish it weren’t true. However, if you’re a pastor, your e-mail or letter goes directly to my desk and your calls are put through quickly. Something similar happens when Christians contact Jesus. I spend a lot of time with pastors and frankly, I’m a gift to them. It’s not because I’m so wise or smart, I’m neither. It’s just because I’m old and there is hardly anything through which any pastor is gone that I haven’t experienced, and sometimes several times. I know the Saturday night blank page, when nothing is coming and you’ve got to preach on Sunday. And you say to God, Hey, do you know what time it is? And there’s nothing on this page and I’ve got to stand before your people tomorrow. What am I going to, you’re going to leave me standing, hanging in the wind? I know the loneliness of being a pastor. I know the pain when people leave the church. I used to take it personally when people died. I know the feelings of being overwhelmed and the struggles with depression, and doubt, and burnout. I’ve experienced the unbelievable gift of having a front row seat to watching God do incredible things. The privilege of being invited in the secret place of people’s lives and hearts. I’ve mourned with those who mourn, rejoiced with those who rejoice. I have also seen the rest of this story, and I can say to my pastor friends when they call or when they write, I know, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. It’s going to be okay. And that is exactly the gift that Jesus gives to you and to me. And he’s done it for all of my life. He says, I know, I’ve been there and done that, and it’s going to be okay. It’s the source of joy and laughter and freedom. I hated the dark, but I was also relieved that someone who had experienced even more dark than I could ever experience was there before me and could say, as it were, I know, I’ve been there, it’ll be okay. When Jesus, as it were, holds my hand. Since we’re talking about gifts that give laughter in the midst of the lament, there’s the gift of the temporary. I’ve been around a long time and over the years I’ve experienced some dark times, but the light almost always shined and the dark passed. My mother used to say at night, she was afraid and worried, and she said this, even when she knew she was dying and we had moved into the house where I grew up, so we could be with her over those months. She said, son, I can handle anything when the sun comes up. And that’s true for all of us. It’s important to remember, that we always have the past to look forward to. What? Would you say that again, Steve? Yes, I will. And slower for the slower among us. We always have the past to look forward to. We’ve all experienced Psalm 30, after the Psalmist cried out to the Lord in the dark, he could rejoice.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
That’s verse five.
You have turned for me my morning into dancing. You have loosed my sack cloth and clothed me with gladness.
That’s the 11th verse of that 30th Psalm. The gift of the temporary is more than our present pain. We’re temporary too. And while that can be bad news, it can be good news. I’ve said it often. The good news is you’re going to heaven and the bad news is you’re going on Thursday. I love reading my friend Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book on heaven. You ought to get it sometime, it’s called Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings. That book is a great perspective on heaven. We have this spurious idea that heaven will be an extended worship service, and if I find out that it’s a, you know, I can go about an hour and a half for a worship service. When you get much over that, I’m, I get antsy. And if you go two hours, I will have left before you get to the second hour. One of the voices of Key Life is Jerry Parries and you may or may not know that he’s African American, and sometimes I preach in his church and I tell him, when’s the service going to be over? And he said, when it’s finished. I said, well, I’d kind of like to know a little bit more detail, when do you finish? He said, when it’s over, which isn’t very helpful, frankly. And so, you know, if I get to heaven and we’re going to have a worship team and they’re going to go on and on, and a preacher who doesn’t know how to stop and it doesn’t go, it goes for eternity, I don’t want to be there. We have this spurious idea that heaven will be like that. Good heavens, I sometimes have trouble just getting through what I’ve got, and Elise says.
Contrary to popular belief, heaven will be a place where our longings that were never fulfilled, our dreams that turn to dust, our exciting plans for which we never had time, our relationships that always seem superficial and leaving a lot to be destroyed will all be remedied.
I like that, it’s a place where we will grow and laugh and see our deeper longings fulfilled. God said that, the Scripture says.
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.
That’s I Corinthians 2:9. There is joy in lament, even laughter when we remember that we’re not home yet. And then, there’s also the grace for the moment. I spoke about it earlier, but I’m going to say a little bit more about it tomorrow. Did I tell you that Buddy Greene and I did an album a few years ago called Grace For the Moment. And in that album, Buddy sang songs of grace and I told stories of grace. And we both laughed and said, this isn’t going to sell unless you sing and I tell stories. If we reverse those roles, this thing is going down in flames. But there was a picture of both Buddy and me on the front of that, actually it was a CD and both of us are bald. And Buddy said that we ought to title the CD or the album a Grace for the Moment and Hope for the Bald. But there is grace for the moment and we’ll talk more about it tomorrow, but it’s a flash of grace. It comes when you don’t expect it. It happens when things are down and you begin to laugh and you don’t know why. It comes when the Holy Spirit comes, early church called the Holy Spirit the Happy Happy Spirit. You think about that. Amen.
Thanks Steve. Of course, we’re in the midst of exploring Steve’s latest book, Laughter and Lament and the Biblical truths that inspired it. I know the whole point of the book is that they’re both essential laughter and lament, but I’m not going to lie, I’m a much bigger fan of the laughter part. Well, in less than two weeks there will be something to laugh and be glad about, Easter. I love Easter so much, and there’s just something special about that feeling on Easter morning. But often Easter is an occasion that brings up some challenging questions like, why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t there have been another way? If Jesus had lived to a ripe old age, wouldn’t he have had more time to teach us more? Well, Steve has addressed these very questions in a sermon called Why Jesus Had To Die. We would love to send you that sermon on a CD, for free. Get it right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. And if you’d like to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses for the U.S. and Canada. Just ask for your free copy of the CD called Why Jesus Had To Die. And hey, one more thing before you go. Have you ever thought about partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving is easy, you can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.