Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

“Self-doubt is perfectly justified”: meditation on Psalm 59:9-10

May 31, 2019

For at least a few nights in a row, I’ve had the the same academic-related nightmare: I’m back at college (Georgia Tech, in my case), taking classes I’ve taken before—except this time I feel lost, confused, and overwhelmed. I have final exams coming up with seemingly no time to prepare for them. I’m going to flunk out.

Of course, the reason why I’m taking these classes again isn’t clear. Even in my dream I’m still a full-time pastor. And each morning I wake up, after a few moments, feeling a sense of relief: I’m not back in college. I don’t have to re-take these classes.

I can probably psychoanalyze myself enough to know at least a couple of the reasons for my dream: First, I’m an itinerant United Methodist pastor who has a new church appointment starting in late June. I’ll be the senior pastor of Toccoa First United Methodist. Aside from literally packing up, moving, and unpacking, I’m looking forward to the new appointment. I know that God is protecting me and taking care of me. Still, the old, familiar fears haunt me: What if I don’t measure up? What if I don’t succeed? What if the new church doesn’t like me?

Second, I’m afraid for the future of my denomination, and my place within it. While I still hold the same theological and doctrinal convictions I held nine years ago—when I defended them before the Board of Ordained Ministry and was ordained—I’m reminded almost daily of how out of fashion some of these convictions are among the leadership of today’s United Methodist Church.

If worst comes to worst and the UMC asks me to compromise my convictions (and the Council of Bishops and I likely disagree over what “compromise” looks like), what will I do? Where will I go? To say the least, I’ve forgotten all engineering knowledge. If I can’t preach and teach God’s Word with integrity, what else can I do? I may be a lousy pastor, but I’m better at being a pastor than I am at anything else I’ve ever done! So pity me!

Anyway, I know what you’re thinking: “Brent, you need to trust Jesus. You need to have faith.”

Well, yes… But isn’t that always the hard part? Like that fine Taylor guitar collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom, faith is a fine thing to possess without ever having to practice.

So I need a word of reassurance from God.

If only there were a book in which God’s words were written down! Oh, wait…

Psalm 59:9-10: “O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

I wrote the following in my journaling Bible:

“my Strength”: David coins a new name for God: my Strength. As I consider the challenges that lay ahead of me, how desperately I need the Lord to be “my Strength.” I feel fear in the pit of my stomach. I worry that I’m inadequate. But I need you, Lord, to be adequate for me… more than adequate! My Strength, I need you to make me “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37). I need you to prevail against my chief enemy, Satan—who causes this self-doubt within me.

But not so fast: as always, what Satan intends for evil, you intend for good (Genesis 50:20). Why is self-doubt a bad thing if it moves me to a deeper trust in you, my Strength?

Let’s assume, from this point forward, that my self-doubt is perfectly justified! I am weak and inadequate. Therefore, I will trust more fully and confidently in you, my Strength.

Sermon for 12-13-09: “God is With Us”

December 15, 2009

Sermon Text: Matthew 1:18-25

During the seasons of Advent and Christmas, we often use the name “Emmanuel” to describe Jesus. We sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” Or we sing, “Pleased, as man, with men to dwell/ Jesus our Emmanuel.” Emmanuel is a name meaning “God is with us,” and it’s associated with Christmas because of today’s scripture. Matthew relates the birth of Jesus Christ to something the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14.

If we want to understand the full meaning of this Isaiah reference in Matthew, we need to spend a little bit of time understanding what it meant in the original context. In the eighth century B.C., the kingdom of Israel is divided into two kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom, called Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, called Judah. Although they are descended from Abraham and worship the same God, they have an antagonistic relationship with one another. In Isaiah chapter 7, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had joined a coalition with Syria, because they believed they could successfully resist the control and influence of the Assyrian Empire, the dominant power in the region. But they knew they would be stronger if they could persuade the Southern Kingdom of Judah to join them in their coalition against the Assyrians. Judah, under King Ahaz, refuses to join… at first, but he’s beginning to waver and second-guess himself in the face of military attacks by these two other kingdoms. They want to defeat Ahaz and install a puppet who will go along with their plans. Read the rest of this entry »

Being chased by Jimmie “J.J.” Walker

December 14, 2009

Yesterday’s sermon focused on Joseph. We looked at the Christmas story from Matthew 1:18-25. I wanted people to consider how much faith Joseph must have had. After all, he was asked to believe that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant, not by another man, but by the Spirit of God. And we modern-day Bible readers may respond, “Yes, but an angel told him. An angel!” Sure, if an angel appeared and told us something, then believing it would be no big deal.

To which I say, “Yes, but it happened in a dream!” What are our dreams like? Mine are often crazy, ridiculous, and unsettling. I often wake up and feel great relief that I was only dreaming. It was only a dream. I can tell myself that it doesn’t mean anything. Joseph, by contrast, had a crazy dream and, unlike me, he didn’t dismiss it. He believed that God was communicating something important to him through it. That’s faith!

I asked people in the congregation to text me their strangest or funniest dreams. The responses were hilarious. They are as follows: Read the rest of this entry »