Archives For Kurt Bubna

Long ago, before smart phones, laptops, and blogging, I started in ministry as a young twenty-something youth pastor at a large and growing church. I had no idea what I was doing. Of course, I thought I knew more than I did, but I was clueless.

Almost forty years later, I know a bit more, but the longer I serve, the more I realize how much I still don’t know. I’ve invested my life in the study and teaching of the Word, in the pursuit of better leadership, and in the care of people, and the only thing I know for certain is that I’m still a student. Still learning. Still growing. Still far from perfect.

We (and I use the “royal we” meaning, me too) pastors are a curious lot.

Here are seven ways we struggle:

  1. We would take a bullet for our parishioners, lay our lives down for those we serve, painfully aware, however, that the bullet may come from someone we love.
  2. We pour ourselves into the preparation of a weekly message because we believe in the power of the Word to transform lives. Still we realize that maybe half of our congregation…

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Dad Daughter

More teenagers die from suicide than from cancer, birth defects, heart disease, pneumonia, and influenza – combined. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 (2015 CDC WISQARS). One source reports that for students in grades 7-12, there are over 5,000 suicide attempts each day in the United States. Let that number sink in . . . That’s over 200 attempts every hour of every day.

Sadly, the hardest funeral I’ve ever had to preside over was for a teenage girl who took her life because she thought she was ugly. Too often I’ve sat with parents trying to make sense of a teen’s attempt to commit suicide.

The numbers are staggering. The stories are devastating. But the battle for the lives of our youth is not hopeless.

Here are six things a parent can do:

First and foremost, maintain a family environment of unconditional love and acceptance. There should never be a moment, let alone a day, when your child wonders if anybody truly loves them. On a regular basis, tell your child, “I love you with all of my heart, and I’m proud to call you my kid!”

Model…

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Hold On

She looked at me with hopelessness as deep as the ocean in her eyes. “I’m tired of holding on to a dream that seems more elusive with each passing day.” Then she literally screamed through her tears, “What’s the point of hoping my husband will change when he’s more abusive now than ever before?”

Have you ever held on to a dream for so long that it’s become a nightmare? What once filled you with hope and gave you strength now sucks the marrow right out of your bones. Your dreams, your prayers, and your promises from God seem to mock you now and leave you in a cesspool of despair.

Maybe it’s not been weeks or months, but years and decades of waiting. For a season, you prayed hard and believed in faith for great things, but your prayers are only whimpers now and you can smell the stench of bitterness growing in your soul.

“Will my son ever be free of drugs?”

“Will I ever get pregnant?”

“Will I ever find a spouse and the love of my life?”

If one more person tells you to “hold on,” you’re going to hurt somebody! If you hear “let…

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We live in what is commonly referred to as the Information Age. Since the 1970s, the use of computers and readily available digital data have transformed the way we think and function. I recently did a Google search on the word politics. I got over one million search results! If you want to know anything about everything, it’s out there in cyberspace just waiting for a simple keystroke.

But is there a downside to being so data-rich?

Before I go any further, let me clearly say, I am not promoting ignorance in this post. As a pastor, author, blogger, husband, father, and occasional fix-it man, I’m grateful for search engines that can take me to the information I need. Knowledge is good. Learning is great. Information is valuable. I’m not advocating a return to the dark ages or any outdated view of technology. I like my Mac, thank you very much.

That being said, here’s my concern: I wonder if some have made an idol out of knowledge. Is it possible that the abundance of information has made them arrogant? More…

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Windmill

If you’re human, and over 40, you’ve probably thought at least once, Are my best days behind me? (If you’re a pastor, you struggle with this just about every Monday morning!)

I’m not suggesting you need to be middle-aged or old to wonder about this question. If you felt like your high school or college years were some of your best, then you might have faced this disheartening question early in your life.

I know a guy who was a football star in high school, and he frequently talks about that time as the best days of his life – and he’s my age. It’s sort of sad. Especially since high school was over for him 40 years ago.

Recently I was at a retirement party for some friends. I’ve known them for about 20 years, and we worked together on a large church staff for five years. At this gathering, the staff said some very nice things about my friends, and there were quite a few honoring and funny stories told.

I was sitting there, listening, smiling, and remembering, when a question hit me hard. Were those years with them my best years in ministry?

Then I nose-dived into thinking…

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I’m not sure why the unexpected continues to surprise me, but it does.

After sixty-plus years of life on terra firma, you’d think I’d have this figured out: I should expect the unexpected.

On a regular basis, like weekly, something happens to me that surprises me. Sometimes it’s a good surprise, and sometimes it’s not, but I can’t tell you how many times something happens and I think, I didn’t see that coming at all!

But why?

Why do relatively intelligent people have to deal with a regular barrage of what is often seen as stupid surprises?

Why do most of us struggle so much with things seemingly out of our control?

Why do we humans have the ability to reason, to ponder, and even to plan, and yet we are forced to deal with the unreasonable, the unexplainable, and the unforeseen?

And perhaps the biggest why of all is why does God, who knows everything, allow his kids to confront the unknown and the unexpected?

Maybe, the answer is found in this mysterious reality: surprise is a special teacher.

Perhaps, when God brings or allows us an unwelcome event or experience, he doesn’t do so to frustrate us but…

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Dale (not his real name) was in my office, and through sobs of despair and shame, he said, “I don’t know what happened or why, but I cheated on my wife, and now she’s found out and is leaving me.”

I wish I could tell you confessions like that are rare. They’re not.

The question I want you to consider with me is this: Is illicit sex worth it?

In particular, are adultery and pornography worth the cost?

On a regular basis, I teach that sex is a gift from God, and it is. Regardless of the current level of satisfaction in your marriage, sex is a blessing from the Creator. He wants you to experience loving, creative, and exciting sex with your spouse. That’s God’s plan, and after over forty years of marriage, I can tell you from firsthand experience—it’s awesome when his plan comes together.

Few want to hear this, and even fewer believe it nowadays, but illicit sex outside of your marriage, including adultery and pornography, is costly. Tragically, we humans tend to focus on the “fringe benefits” of immorality rather than the high cost of our infidelities.

According to researchers:

Forgiveness is everything. Seriously, everything, especially when you realize how much you and I need it.

I’ve lived about 22,000 days. Let’s say I’ve sinned an average of four to five times a day or about once every three or so hours while awake. That would mean I’ve blown it about 100,000 times in my life so far.

Of course, you’re thinking, “No way, not Kurt; he’s much holier than that!” Or, you might truly know me and think that number is far too low!

The fact of the matter is, the Bible defines sin as missing the mark. Anytime I miss the mark of perfection, that qualifies as a sin in God’s eyes.

I think something that God would never think. Sin.

I look at something that God would never look at. Sin.

I say something God would never say. Sin.

I don’t do or say something God would do or say. Sin.

I look at a person in a way God would never view a person. Sin.

I treat my wife, children, grandchildren, family or friends in an uncaring or thoughtless way. Sin.

I pretend to be something I’m not. Sin.

I react in fear rather than respond in faith. Sin.

I act…

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Liked

The desire to be liked and approved of by others runs deep in most of us. Maybe all of us. We are wired for connection to other humans. We are made to be in meaningful relationships. And when we know or sense that someone in our sphere of influence doesn’t like us, it hurts.

From the time we start school as young children, we do whatever we can to gain the acceptance and approval of others.

  • If we’re nerdy, we play the smart card.
  • If we’re goofy, we play the fun card.
  • If we’re athletic, we play the jock card.
  • If we’re musical, we just play something, anything (even a trumpet) to fit in with others who are like us — hoping beyond hope that others will embrace us as valuable.

As we enter our teen years, we might feign apathy and act as if we don’t care about being liked.

But we do care. A lot.

Over time, after a broken heart or two or 20, and after rejection after rejection, we typically start to withdraw in an act of self-preservation. However, our retreat from people doesn’t stop our deep-seated need to be recognized and…

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Broken

An old friend, Richard, recently called me. He used to live in town and attend my church. For the past seven years or so, he’s been a member of a large church in Phoenix.

We were catching up and reminiscing about old friends when he said to me, “I had coffee with my current men’s pastor yesterday, and he told me some honest things about his marriage and about something stupid he said to his wife.”

I chimed in, “That’s cool!”

He awkwardly paused, and then said with a confused tone, “How is that cool?”

“It’s cool that your pastor owned his stuff and that he’s being real with you. It’s the people who try to hide and deny their sins that worry me.”

Bob said, “I guess I expected the guy pastoring men to be . . . well . . . to be more spiritually mature.”

Without hesitation, I reminded Bob of the many times he heard me tell stories of my idiocy. I also told him we all walk with a limp, and none of us is without a soul blemish or two (or 20).

On this side of eternity, the reality we don’t like to admit,…

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I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I became the old guy on our church staff. I don’t think of myself as old. I’m social media savvy. I text on my iPhone 7 Plus. I even have a Snapchat account (though I’m not sure why, because I don’t use it).

Of course, I don’t wear skinny jeans, spike my hair, have a long beard, or have the coolest eyeglasses. I don’t sleep more than 6 or 7 hours a night. I still say “dude,” and I enjoy a mid-afternoon power nap. I also now qualify for the senior discount at a growing number of places.

Okay, at almost 60, maybe I am old, but I’m learning some things about relating to Millennials. I’ll get there in a second, but let’s first attempt to describe who is what.

The generation breakdown is a bit difficult to define. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t classify the different generations except for Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964, who are roughly 52-70 years old).

The media, or some self-proclaimed pundits somewhere, have said that Gen-Xers are those born between 1965 and 1981, those…

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A few months ago, a young woman I’ve known all her life looked at me and said, “What’s that on your face?”

She’s the bold, outspoken type, so her question didn’t shock me, but I said, “What particular blemish are you talking about?”

“The hole in your cheek!”

“Oh, you mean the pockmark?”

Suddenly it dawned on her; I just pointed out a pitted scar left by a pimple on my pastor’s face!

I chuckled and said, “It’s okay, I embrace my flaws.”

Awkward for her.

Not so much for me.

Why do we try to hide our imperfections? It’s a great question.

Perhaps it’s because we fear rejection. Maybe it’s that we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Of course, we could just be afraid of scaring small children.

Whatever the reason, there is a freedom that comes in our relationships when we know we are loved regardless of our flaws.

Frankly, at my age, you do one of two things when it comes to your appearance:

  • Spend a lot of time and money on hiding your blemishes.
  • Accept the reality that you are far from perfect and it’s okay.

I choose to accept my imperfections.

One of my…

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