I was trying to pull into a gas station but the lady driving out of the gas station had other ideas. Just as I committed into my turn she shows up in her gigantic car and takes up both the entrance and the exit. To top it all off she was talking on the phone. Sometimes when people do this, they will quickly see the error of their ways and give you that awkward wave to let you know that they know they can’t drive. Not this time. This woman’s bad driving was unrepentant bad driving.
I was furious but I didn’t lash out, not because of my superior self-control skills but because I was afraid that maybe she or one of her close relatives went to my church.
“Man, your pastor sure is good at fighting small, middle-aged women!”
Eventually the lady went on about her way still talking on her phone and I went on about my way still fuming over the whole ordeal. I spent the rest of the day analyzing what this woman did wrong.
A week or so after this incident a guy was pulling into the same gas station. As he was making his entrance into the gas station he also happened to be talking on the phone. There was a car trying to exit the gas station the proper way. Because the man coming into the gas station was too busy with his phone to be bothered with driving an automobile he came inches from side swiping the poor woman trying to leave the gas station.
That man’s actions were irresponsible.
That man could’ve gotten someone hurt.
That man was me.
But for some reason I didn’t spend near as much time in anger over the second traffic injustice as I did the first. This is because I’m better at pointing out the flaws of others than I am at correcting my own. I did, for the record, give the awkward wave to the lady I almost hit so that should count for something.
These two events reminded me of the importance of what Joe Thorn in his book Note to Self, calls “preaching to myself.” It’s easy for me to tell my congregation to kill their sin and rely on God’s grace. But for those sermons to carry any weight I have to preach them and live them out myself.
Below, in no particular order, are some of the things I made a practice of preaching to myself in 2011.
Jay, when you are caught up in your worries and anxieties you have stopped worshiping and trusting God. You have replaced grace with human effort. When you feel worry and anxiety creeping in, begin to focus intently on prayer and worship. Visualize the Lord Jesus Christ guarding your heart and mind with the peace of God (Philippians 4:4-7).
Jay, think of how Jesus has demonstrated his love for you and figure out how you can model that love for your wife today. What is something that she hates doing? Find out and do it. What scares her? Instead of viewing her fear as a threat to your ability to provide and protect, move towards her fear. Don’t just talk about serving her and leading her, do it (Ephesians 5:25-33).
Jay, never forget the brokenhearted pastor who told you about the time that his wife said that she felt like he was having an affair with the church he was pastoring. Never put the church before your family. This may make you a few enemies but that’s okay. Remember, if you make it your aim to always please the people in your church you can pretty much guarantee that you, your family and your church will all be miserable. When you’re on vacation, make sure your phone and e-mail take a vacation too. Guard your meal times with your family vigilantly. Equip other leaders in your church to help you in this. Love the church you pastor by loving your wife and kids more than the church you pastor (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
Jay, remember to be present and engaged with your kids. Being there is good and it’s a lot better than not being there. You know that from personal experience. But you can still be there and not really be there. Get on the floor with your boys, wrestle with them and make leaf piles all for the glory of God. Have fun with them. Yes, take the primary role of discipline and no, don’t try to be their buddy but remember, they need to see you smiling and having fun (Colossians 3:21).
Jay, focus more on engaging your culture than you do the culture. Know the people in you church and community. There aren’t a whole lot of young hipsters in your church or community who are struggling with whether or not they should accept that job with Apple or go on tour as the opening act for Jay Z and Kanye. Deal with it. You do have a lot of people in your church and community who are struggling with loosing a business, poor health and how to deal with kids that do the dumb things that kids do. Remember, engaging the culture doesn’t mean just engaging what you’re in to or what’s cool. It means moving towards the people in your scope and relating to them for kingdom purposes. Learn how to talk to hunters (Acts 17:16-34).
Jay, when you visit people in the hospital, stop going into the wrong room. It’s awkward for the family of the patient as they try to figure out who you are and it makes you look dumb when you explain why you just came in a completely random room to pray for a total stranger thinking it was someone else. You’ve only been a pastor for a little over three years and this has happened twice already. You’re grown up now. Get it together, man!
Jay, remember to preach to the self-righteous. This should be easy since you are so self-righteous. A while back someone told you that there is a broken heart on every pew. That is a true statement and you must remember that as you prepare and preach. But seated next to that broken heart there’s a heart that’s been hardened by dead, Jesus-less religion. Prayerfully and gracefully and boldly confront self-righteous legalism. It’s probably sending more people to hell in your community than any other sin (Galatians 2:15-21).
Jay, make the number one delight and desire of your life Jesus Christ. This requires a lot of grace. White-knuckling it wont help. Most of the things that compete for your delight and desire are not bad things. But they are not worthy of your worship. You destroy them and yourself when you act as though they are. Continually ask the Spirit to shape your heart so that you can see the surpassing value of communion with Christ (Psalm 84:10).