In my reading the last several days I have come across several thoughts and observations from a variety of authors that have impacted me. In this post I want to pass on to readers three of the things that struck me.
The word of caution that grabbed me is from Pastor J.A. Medders and his observation, “One of the greatest dangers of studious Christians is loving the study of God more than God himself.” Certainly we are to study the Bible and what scholars and others have written about God and his revelation, but Medders points out the danger of getting so caught up in studying and increasing our knowledge that we forget the primary purpose of learning.
Medders cautions about what he calls “theological trophy hunting” in which some “read the Bible to get more verses on [their] side . . . so [they] can win an argument, or show how much [they] know.” We must be careful not to be like the Pharisees, who in the words of Professor Bruce Metzger emphasized the WORD of God rather than the word of GOD. Medders’ primary point is that we are not just to love the study of God or books about him, but to love God.
The word of challenge that got my attention is from Psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein concerning our regrets in life. Inspired by something Ralph Waldo Emerson said, Bernstein’s “advice is to accept the fact we all make mistakes, apologize to those we’ve harmed, forgive oneself, and focus on our personal strengths and gratitude rather than regrets from the past.”
The challenge for me is in those two words accept and apologize. I hope none of us will use the observation that “we all make mistakes” to minimize our mistakes because everyone makes them. And of course we should apologize to those we’ve harmed; but more than that, as Christians, many times we should not just apologize, but ask for forgiveness as well—from both those we’ve harmed as well as the Lord. With regard to focusing “on our personal strengths . . . rather than regrets,” my sense is we should not be too hard on ourselves; but acknowledging our personal strengths does not erase our mistakes.
The word of encouragement is three quotes from The Art of Aging by Sherwin B. Nuland. Hopefully, even younger readers will be encouraged as well as those of us who are older. Early in the book Nuland observes, “Used well, an aging brain can become a more useful brain, and often a wiser one” (p.32). Late in his book Nuland states the obvious, “The getting of wisdom is, of course, a process, and it has no end point.” He continues, “The wisdom that we seek with age is not something that comes without effort, nor is it unearned consolation for the passage of years. Rather, it is the result of reflecting” (p. 253).
In reading Nuland’s observations I’m sure you can see how at the age of 68 I am encouraged by what he writes. I think I am using my aging brain well; I also believe I’m still in the process of getting wisdom; and with the continued passage of years I find myself reflecting more and more. No matter what your age, I hope you are encouraged.
I realize this is an out of ordinary blog post, and I thank you for reading it. Let’s all be open to and look for words of caution, words of challenge, and words of encouragement.
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Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay
Hey Pastor Bob!
Boy, have I lived there wrote about challenges in the last few years! That one resonated with me the most.
I’m on my way back from the Philippines! And I got to see Steve and Lenae!! My company’s operations are in Manila and Cebu.
Love to you, Jan, Audrey and Rob!
Sent from my iPhone
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good words for this 70 year old retired but active Pastor. Thanks for the helpful insights.
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I am struggling with that now. I look back over my past ministries and think I did ok but know I could have done better. I am frustrated because I can’t apologize to churches for my youthfulness…most of the leaders are gone. The biggest frustration is the longest, most successful ministry ended with them saying it was time to leave. I have nothing to apologize for there but just feel empty…if that was the biggest success maybe my whole ministry wasn’t a success. That is what is so frustrating about aging…waiting to get the report card that really counts.
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