Posts Tagged ‘Georgia State University’

“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 03-22-15: “King, Crown & Cross, Part 5: Passover Lamb”

March 31, 2015

lenten_sermon_series

During his Last Supper, Jesus used the Passover to help communicate the meaning of his death. Apart from Christ’s atoning death, all of us sinners deserve the deadly judgment that came upon the Egyptians—and worse, hell itself. The good news is that God sent his very self—Jesus, God the Son—to be our substitutionary sacrifice—our Passover lamb.

Sermon Text: Mark 14:22-31

[If you want to listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

I was at home last Thursday afternoon when my son Townshend rushed in to tell me that Georgia State was making a game of it against the heavily favored Baylor in the opening round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. How is that possible? A 14-seed versus a three-seed? As you probably heard, Georgia State won the game. They were down by two with seconds left, when R.J. Hunter sank a very long three-pointer to put GSU over the top. A big upset! And the upsets continue. Yesterday, I saw the eight-seed N.C. State defeat number-one seed Villanova.

gsu_baylor

And this is why we love March Madness—because unexpected, even shocking victories can take place.

In today’s scripture, on this night of Jesus’ arrest by the temple guard, hours before he’s handed over to the Romans for his trial, his beating, his scourging, his mocking, followed by his crucifixion, Jesus is working on the biggest upset victory in history—a victory no one would have predicted. Everyone, including his closest friends and disciples, were caught off guard—first by Good Friday and then, especially, by Easter Sunday.

And in today’s scripture they were caught off guard—shocked, even—by Jesus’ words during this Passover meal, when he held up the bread and said, “This is my body.” And when he held up the wine and said, “This is my blood.” Read the rest of this entry »