I’m Going To Be a Pastor…

I’m Going To Be A Pastor

pastor

In the wee hours of Sunday, March 30, 2014, I spent several tear-filled moments on my knees. It felt like hours. Something wouldn’t let me sleep. I felt led to pray. I realized God was using my sleeplessness to make me realize it was time to acknowledge what He whispered so many years before…“I will use you”.

I thought I was being called into vocational ministry, assuming I would become a pastor. A few months went by and I was in the UMC’s Course of Study program to become a Licensed Local Pastor. That plan has since gone by the wayside, as I enrolled in Liberty University to obtain a degree in religion. I no longer can declare that I know how God will use me. I may end up being a pastor someday, but I very well may not. But this story is really not about me anyway. It’s about something God showed me recently.

I grew up in a small town in Central Pennsylvania, not real far from where I live now. Many folks who come from this town take pride in it, celebrating and venerating it as though it’s the center of the universe. Most of my immediate family members still live there. I don’t mean any disrespect to any of those people, but I couldn’t wait to leave. I always found many of my peers and the other citizens there to be intolerant of anyone who was not like them. Of course, we often form behaviors based on our surroundings, so I developed an attitude of intolerance as well. I found out later that intolerance isn’t limited to my hometown…it’s a worldwide sin problem.

One specific group of people who were treated with little regard were those with special needs. I was terrified of interacting with anyone whom my peers and I referred to as a “retard”. Sadly, I joined in the teasing, name-calling, etc., that happened to these children on a regular basis. I never learned to see them for what they were…precious children of God.

Never, that is, until I met a young lady named Stacy Litz, who is now my wife. Stacy is likely the most tolerant person I have ever met. The word “retard” was forbidden in the Litz household. First off, because it’s just plain wrong, but also for a more personal reason. My in-laws lost their first daughter, Lori Ann, who was born prematurely, and were always told that if she had lived she would have had severe disabilities.

Through our nearly 30 years together, Stacy has shown me so much about loving and accepting all the people you come into contact with. That being said, I still tend to shy away from most of those people who my background tells me aren’t on ‘my level’.

But God has such different plans from us. I now live in a larger small town. Large enough to have two Sheetz convenience stores. For anyone who has ever bought coffee from a Sheetz, you understand the importance of this. I find it hard to make my own when I can go there and buy their amazing brew.

A few weeks ago, as I waited in line at Sheetz, a young man who I have seen around our town came up beside me and began to talk to me. I recognized him as someone I had seen many times in the grocery store, or just walking on the street. I heard him say something I had heard him say before, though never directly to me: “I’m going to be a pastor”.

It was at that very moment that God humbled me more than He ever had before. See, this young man, while appearing “normal”, is developmentally disabled. I don’t know know him. I don’t even know his name. I don’t know who has interested him in church. But he tells everyone that he’s going to be a pastor. The first time I heard him say this was a few years ago when I was in Wal-Mart. He was close enough that I could hear him, but he wasn’t talking to me. Then, I thought, “aww, that’s cute”.

As I stood beside him in Sheetz, he said those words, and he looked at me and said “you could be a pastor too”. I told him that may be part of the plan…I just don’t know. I paid for my purchases, left the store, went to my car, and felt tears running down my cheeks. I know now that if I ever have the chance to converse with this young man again, and he says “I’m going to be a pastor”, my response will be “son, you already are”.

You see, we never know who will minister to us. Christ will use those we least expect to teach us humility and many other things. He taught me something important through this young man that day. He may never be credentialed as a pastor, but like I said, he already is a minister.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4, NIV

 

His Power…my weakness…WHAT?

“DOESN’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS”. A friend once told me that another friend of ours used this phrase to describe me.

Spot on!

I really couldn’t have said it better myself. I don’t like it, but it’s true. I suck at relationships of all kinds. I always have…and I likely always will.

2 Corinthians 12:9 is my favorite Bible verse. The cover photo on this blog, that I think my daughter did a pretty nice job of taking, shows this verse tattooed on my arm…His power made perfect in my weakness. He’s pretty powerful, and I’m pretty damn weak.

Relationships are my biggest weakness.

No one wants to admit they’re weak, even though we all know we are. Any show of personal strength we put forth is a façade, projected for others to see who we want them to think we are. We learn these behaviors early on, sometimes because of good influence and sometimes because of bad experiences.

I’m a pessimist. The cup is half empty. Throughout my childhood, there was always the fear of losing friendships, the threat of taking someone away, and reasons to distrust people were always brought to the forefront. I’ve been afraid to get close to anyone since I was a kid.

I know that despite my past, I’m ultimately responsible for my own actions. Successes and failures. Friends and foes. I can’t control anyone; only how I react to them. Many…no, most times, I react badly. I fail to give grace. I’ll whine about it, stew over it, refuse to talk to people…believe me, I wish I were different. But I’m not. I’m me. I’m not used to peace…instead, keeping myself separate, where being hurt isn’t a possibility, has always been priority #1. Fuming in anger alone is what I’m used to doing when I am hurt.

If I have a relationship with you…any type…I’ve thought about how either you or I are going to screw this up. What are you going to say that pisses me off? What am I going to do that you don’t like? Did you ever really like me anyway? How will I escape? Do I just stop talking to you? Good Lord, how do I avoid you? I see you all the time. No one…and I mean no one…is outside this group, so don’t think this is aimed just at you.

It’s no wonder I didn’t think it was real when I heard God say “I will use you” when I was a teenager. Wait…God, You’re not really who they say you are. You won’t fix me; I’ve asked you, begged you, demanded it from you. You can do anything…all I have to do is pray. But why aren’t I miraculously fixed? Nah, no way in hell You’re going to use me. I’ll just go through the motions until I die and You throw me into hell.

Thirty years. That’s how long it took me to realize that You really do love me. Despite my flaws, despite my struggles, and despite the hatred that I have toward You, You love me anyway. You died for me. Took my beating, took my nails, uttered “τετέλεσται”, and gave up Your spirit. You were buried, and rose again, and You gave me life. It took me thirty years because I have been led to believe that I owe something for this gift. That I should picture You on the cross and feel guilty. Keep that barrier between You and me, because I owe and can’t pay. I keep screwing up, so I believe I’m destined to remain in this debtor’s prison. Then Your wrecking ball of grace hit me. But what is happening? I don’t understand this. I feel…peace…this can’t possibly be right.

Then…I realize…relationships are happening. This is so uncomfortable. DOESN’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS. Are you being fake? Can I trust you? I guess I’ll give it a try. But there are bumps in the road. My true colors show. Disagreements ensue. Doors are closed and walls go back up. Just like my past life, church life is no different. Yet, I keep getting drawn back in. More relationships. More potential for hurt. Why am I going back? I don’t understand. This is crazy.

I always thought my strongest weakness was the secret I carried with me. Certainly, that’s a big part of it. Relationships with men are difficult because I am afraid of attraction, attachment, discovery, and rejection.

I looked at my arm recently, and thought “relationships are my weakness because they require effort, understanding, and grace”. I realize that along with the joy there will be pain. With peace, strife. Being known by others requires vulnerability.

Despite my weakness, I have felt God moving me forward. Over the past two years, I have developed more relationships than I ever thought possible. Good associations. Ones which bring growth and healing to both parties. His power made perfect in my weakness.

But then there is this…DOESN’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS.

About a month ago, something happened that caused me a lot of pain. A lot of misinformation and misunderstanding occurred. Forgiveness has happened, and by all means, the pain should be in the past. True to form, though…I’m me. I’ve convinced myself that I should never have shared my story with anyone, because then this would not have happened. I even posted this prayer on my Facebook wall:

Dear God,

This story that you gave me to tell…you can have it back. I really don’t want it anymore. In fact, I never did. You picked the wrong person. Remember, I’m a reclusive introvert. I just can’t.

Sincerely,
Me

This is about as honest as I can be. I really don’t want this story. My daily prayer for mercy is that God takes me out of this world of pain and hurt. But here I am. Another day, awake and alive. I’m here for a reason. “I will use you”…so despite what I’m thinking, God is in control of this. The way He has me tell me story might be different from what I had anticipated, and I guess if it’s going to take pain for me to understand that, pain there will be. If it took misunderstanding to bring clarity, so be it.

Acts 2:47-27, “The Fellowship of the Believers”, is written to make us understand that we are to be a community of believers:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The word “community” makes me uncomfortable. Community is the place where somehow, God takes someone who doesn’t really like himself, hates his past, and feels aimless about his future, and puts him in front of other people to spread the message of grace. That’s me. Why God chose me, I don’t know. But He did.

Pray for me as I attempt to understand what God has in store, because I don’t play well with others. Someday, I hope I find out why He chose me, but until then, I have to remember that He is God, and said…“But he said to me, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest no me.”

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Martin’s Mountain

Grace and Brotherhood

Grace and Brotherhood

Brotherhood is a phrase that has been largely absent from my life. I had my reasons. Life is fragile. Closeness brings risk. Risk of being known. Being known would bring shame. Shame means the fragility of life could shatter.

Certainly, I’ve had male friends in life. In school, at work, at church…contact with people of both sexes is unavoidable. Shielding myself from getting too close to other guys became my life’s goal. If I could have, I would have become a recluse; but I had these things called church (well, sometimes anyway), work, wife, children…all things that required me to interact. Still, I had three main categories that I classed other men into…fear, fantasy, and nothing.

God was putting grace to work in my life. Even though I was often outside my comfort zone doing things with other parents where our kids were in the same activities; taking part in work training with people I didn’t know; and even stepping into the church, He gave me the strength to get through because He was shaping me…even when I certainly didn’t want to be shaped.

One of the reasons that I didn’t want to surrender to God was because I knew in doing so, I would need to embrace other men as brothers in Christ. I thought this would be difficult. God had some suprises in store for me.

The first surprise was John. I consider John my “original” brother in Christ because it was his selfless action that made my need for God so blatantly apparent. John was the first man that I was able to divulge my ugly struggle to. I was afraid, but his response of grace and love gave me hope.

Slowly, I began to look at other guys in new light. Men from my church embraced and supported me as I began to explore my faith in Jesus Christ. Those categories I had always used before were wiped away, as I became aware that I had a new category called brotherhood. I am able to look at other men as God’s precious creations that He has plans for…and I may be involved in helping them realize those plans.

Brotherhood took an even more surprising turn as I took a step to get support from a men’s ministry where I found freedom and safety along with discipleship and spiritual growth. No condemnation. Grace…love…mercy…and I’m finding that I can now share these characteristics that Jesus expects us to so that others may experience Him as the Wonderful Counselor.

MercyMe has a song called “Beautiful”. In it, they say “you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful, you are treasured, you are sacred, you are His.” You can listen to those words as though they’re being sung to you, but I think more importantly, we should all listen to them as they apply to our brothers (and sisters) in Christ…

TREASURED…

SACRED…

HIS!!!

Note – this was originally posted a little over a year ago on my first blog.

Lust…and ministry?

lust....My sin is real. My sin is painful. But as big a part of my life as it is, Christ is bigger than my sin. His death on the cross once and for all wiped out what separated me from the Father. That sin that separated me from God was not something that I chose to live with. Neither did you. God chose, however, to send Christ as our substitute…a sacrificial lamb in our place, so we would not have to pay the ultimate price for our sin.

Some people think they have the right to judge. If someone sins and confesses that sin publicly, the church should be there to support them through their repentance, and if discipline is required, a procedure should be followed. If that person is a high profile public figure, the church’s response should be no different. What saddens me, though, is that a certain faction in the church thinks it’s perfect enough to continually dredge up prior sins, and to be the judge of when someone is repentant enough to “get back into it”? For me, I would prefer to be ministered to someone who acknowledges their sin, no matter how recent.

So here’s my dilemma: ministry. I’m not sure where God is leading, but in two short years, I’ve gone from thinking I hated people, to drinking in stories of God’s grace in action. Tearful repentance testimonies, listening to confessions of sin from brothers or sisters I barely know, and just plain relief on faces of people who once thought they were too far gone. I want to minister to these people, as well as be ministered to by them. I want to help them see Christ, every time they sin. Every time they seek Him, I want them to experience His love in the way I have.

But I sin. I struggle with temptation of a sexual nature. Lust is an awful thing to deal with, regardless of your circumstance. For me, there’s a feeling of anguish when I experience it. I love my wife dearly. She’s the most loving, kind, and amazing person I’ve ever met. She makes me happy, and her relationship with Christ makes me even happier. Yet, my sin takes me to places where I never imagine myself going again. Imagining myself with someone else. Worse yet, imagining myself with someone male. A specific male.

So what level of repentance is required before I do any kind of ministry? My wife knows my struggle and supports me, even though I can’t imagine why she lets me touch her. Certainly, the men in my support groups feel comfortable enough to interact with me; to rejoice in the victories, and pray about the shortcomings. I lead the men’s section of my small group…same thing. I taught Sunday school and helped lead the service at my church this morning. But what if God is calling me into pastoral ministry? What if God wants me to speak about my sin? Am I repentant enough? I’ve never crossed the line physically, but I’ve certainly looked at enough pornography and fantasized enough that I know I’ve sinned against God and my wife. Nothing can ever erase what I’ve thought about.

There are definitely people who think I have business ministering to anyone, but I think that God wants me to share my story. Not because of me, but because of Him, and what His mercy, grace, and power can do. So I’m going to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, not because there is anything good about me…but because Jesus Christ died not only for me and my sin, but for you and your sin, and you need to hear that. If you think your sin is too big an issue for Him, you are wrong.