Have a Blessed New Year

Beginning a New Year
Well, happy new year, to any who may bop in and read this. I have, for the past 20 years, taken the week between Christmas and New Years as vacation. This year was no exception… except this year we didn’t travel (first time in over 12 years). We just stayed put and let them (family) come to us this time. Very peaceful… I highly recommend it.

The big question on Sunday morning was where to go to church. As a pastor, I have always found it terribly uncomfortable to take time off, yet worship at my own church. I’ve tried this twice in 20 years and it’s not “vacation.” It seems that even if you announce you’re “off”, everyone sees you and comes to you with questions/problems/requests. So, we knew we’d be worshipping elsewhere this morning. One of the larger churches in town just moved into their brand new multi-million dollar building, so we thought we’d go and check it out. The sanctuary seats at least 1,000 and it was quite full for the second service (being New Years Day, the early service was probably quite sparse).

Now, it is also very difficult for me to worship in another church, at least, that’s what I’ve found. It’s not that the service might not be worshipful; it’s that I’m too busy trying to fight off the attitude of being critical about everything: music, songs, people, sermon, etc. I ask the Lord to help with my attitude and He’s doing His part. However, my end needs holding up (okay, I can hear the jokes already).

This morning was no different. I entered with a desire to truly worship the One True God. But the first three songs were so “me” centered – what I’m going to do to make Jesus great this year, what I’m going to do to be worshipful, how much I love Jesus – well, needless to say, I was put off right from the very get go. It wasn’t until 3-4 choruses into the service that we sang, “Before the Throne of God” and I was able to get my eyes off all my good efforts/filthy rags.

Sermon listening is also difficult for me as a pastor: too busy taking notes for my use later, critiquing style & delivery, did the man stay in the text or just use it as a jumping off point. Once again, I was in the thick of it today. Actually, the message stayed true to the text for the most part: Hebrews 8.1-13 and the new covenant. Communion was to follow and this served as a good tie in to the “blood of the new covenant.” However, one illustration and the connecting thought hit me as “dangerously Gnostic.” The new covenant is written on our hearts. Excellent. Illustration: pastor was once in the Air Force and flight training in the classroom was boring. It didn’t become real until sitting in the cockpit and holding the stick and actually flying. I would have been satisfied with just that explanation. However, the pastor said, “…it was fact because it was part of my experience…” In other words, the new covenant is just a bunch of “dry as dust” information, but it becomes a fact when it becomes a part of my experience. I wanted to stand up and say, “No, I don’t think so. The New Covenant is a fact whether I experience it or not. My experience only lets me know that I have believed in His name and received Him.”

There was also a point, during the observance of the Lord’s Supper, where he went on and on and on in introducing the cup. He wanted to stress the point of the sign of the new covenant, but he went off on their new building and our new year and the new opportunities for service and ministry and new beginnings for those who have had troubles, difficulties and such throughout the past year. I think I know what he’s trying to do, but next time, do it during the sermon, not during communion. And next time, simply let the new covenant and its sign in the cup be the new covenant and its sign in the cup.

One other reason (among dozens and dozens) why I’m glad I pastor a smaller church: three people out of 1,000+ greeted us. No one knew if we were guests or even asked. The personal touch was magnificently absent. Praise the Lord for churches less than 100 that greet, welcome, visit with and invite new-comers home for Sunday dinner! Well, these are things for my checklist of things to avoid at my own church. Someone hold me accountable and God grant me grace to glorify Him in all things.

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