Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a good day in most ways. We had a very good time of singing during our worship and the Spirit was very evident and moving. A couple of our teens shared about a recent national conference they attended and they shared well. My wife sang a special in song, and she always really ministers and sings very well. The message went well and people were very attentive and receptive. Our attendance was outstanding, and very surprising for the last Sunday in July. We also made up some ground financially from our summer slump in giving. Yesterday afternoon a group of us made the 2 hour trek to our District Campgrounds for the final service of Campmeeting. It was a very good service with a very good message (it also was a reasonable length). All in all a good day.

I was really disappointed to learn that we had a problem with our recording a week ago, therefore the sermon didn't make it on our website. I have occasionally re-preached (is that even a word?) a sermon to an empty place so we could have a recording in the past. I don't think this is one of those that I can re-do. It was not a lot from my notes, but mainly from my heart. I know that I cannot recreate the emotion that came through on that day. I am sorry about that for those of you had asked me about the recording.

There is always a different atmosphere when attendance is up at church. Yesterday we had to set up more chairs and we ran out of bulletins. I certainly wasn't expecting that many on a Sunday in July. Around here July is often our worst attendance month of the year. This July we averaged 15 more than last July. And we have had some great stuff happening in serving the community, our youth at the national conference and in conversions. It was an encouraging month, I needed that.

Here's hoping you have a great day and that you find someone to encourage today.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Birthdays are so cool ...

We are off for a day and a half to celebrate a couple of birthdays. These are not just any birthdays, these are grandkid birthdays. We are off to purchase the presents and then we are going to see the newest grandchild he is now over 4 months old and he has started doing some new things so of course we need to see him. Then on Saturday morning we will head up and have a birthday party for two of our grandsons. Their birthdays are about 10 days apart so we are celebrating them together. This is to help those of us who are traveling and I imagine that it is also for the sanity of their parents. The invitation said it is a carnival theme. I can't wait. I love watching and listening to my grandkids. So this should be a great time.

We all love kid's birthdays. They are so excited to celebrate being another year older. It seems we lose that joy sometime after age 25. Remember what it was like to say your age and then add "and a half"? Or "I am almost ___ years old"? Maybe if we got back to that kind of joy we could enjoy our birthday a lot more. I don't want to think too hard this morning (insert your own joke about my thinking here), so I will just say a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Zee and Emm. It is number 7 and 5. I love you guys and am so proud of you. Can't wait to see you, hear you and give you hug and your birthday presents.

Here we go... see you in a couple of days. Until then have some fun, laugh a little and smile at someone today, it may be the best part of their day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Trash or Treasure?

This question of "Trash or Treasure?" came up because of an all town event last weekend. Every year our town has an annual city wide garage sale. There are close to 100 sales going on all over our town. The Chamber of Commerce provides a map and description of all the sales. People come from a long distance for this event. This year my wife decided we would participate by having a sale ourselves. Each of our children contributed stuff for the sale, although only one of them came to help (not a problem just an observation) and I think she only came as a trade off for us to help her paint next week.

The good news: the weather was spectacular. There were a ton of people in town for the sale. We got rid of some stuff. My wife said we would not being this next year.

The bad news: we did a garage sale. We didn't get rid of all the stuff. We spent many hours getting ready for the sale. My wife contributed nearly as much money to other people's sales as we received for ours. We had some real traffic jams in town. (Hey, for our little town this was big stuff. Stop laughing it was a real pain.) Some people are just plain jerks.

What I discovered once again is that one person's trash is another person's "just gotta have". Of course now we have to figure out what to do with the stuff that didn't go away during the sale.

Here's hoping that you discover some treasure this week, even it is in your own garage sale.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Noon Musings ...

Well I did it, I didn't hold back on much as I preached yesterday. So far there have been no picketers outside of my office, but it is just past noon. The message was about moving beyond feelings and actually changing. About going past agreeing that we should do something and actually doing something to make a difference with those around you. I felt okay about the message when it was done, then as time has gone on and I have replayed it in my mind a few times (yes that really happens) I have wished I would have said some things differently. Hopefully I will be given grace and people will take into account my heart as I preached.

Yesterday was not the type of sermon the prompts the typicaly "nice sermon pastor" type comments. Which as I have posted in the past are not the type I am seeking anyway. I know that some preaching profs have said that your messages should either make people mad or glad. I am pretty sure I know which category put people into yesterday. But that is okay, because I still believe it was needed to be shared.

Our attendance was not good, maybe people got wind of what I was going to preach. We did have a couple of people attend who hadn't been there for a while, that was encouraging. There was a good spirit during our time singing.

Last night I attended our District's campmeeting service which is 2 hours away. The music portion of the service was outstanding. The rest of the service was long, but it was meaningful and impacting for several. That made for a very long day.

Here's hoping grace is shown this week. Here's hoping that you are personally moving beyond just feelings and really being changed into the image of Christ and making a difference where you are planted.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Excited thoughts ...

It is Sunday morning and I am really excited to preach today. I imagine that my outline is going out the window on this one today. When I did my solo practice run (that is preaching to an empty auditorium, not really running) early this morning I couldn't stay with my outline. Just too much passion in the scripture today. For those who don't know me I usually have a fill-in-the-blank outline of my sermon in the bulletin for anyone to use (or make paper airplanes out of, it really is okay if they do that at least they get used) and my outline is projected on a screen for everyone as well. It is the old teacher in me. But every once in a while I chuck it and just preach. Sometimes on a totally different scripture and everything, today will be from the same scripture but I am not worried about an outline, just the message.

Here's hoping that the passion, and excitement, I am sensing at this time will come through when I preach today. Here's hoping that wherever you are your worship will be passionate and exciting today. It is more your choice than the worship leader and pastor's responbility.

Thought for the day: "Our problem is not lthe lack of knowing, it's the lack of doing" (Mark Hatfield)

2nd thought for the day: (Hey it could be a long day!) "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." (John Shedd)

Yea God! Let's go do this!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Who is in Control?

A few years ago I purchased a book entitled "Control Freak", or something near that title. The idea was to better understand some people I was trying help. As if I have no problems in that area, any comments from those who know me best? Thank you for staying quiet. This whole idea of control has been popping up, maybe jumping up would be a better phrase or jumping up and grasping for ... well, you get the picture. In fact two different conversations yesterday brought it to mind again.

Yesterday afternoon my wife commented on a large spider web in the main hallway at church. First of all, why was there a big ugly spider web in plain site the day after the church was supposedly cleaned? Secondly, let's get rid of the spider web. So I went to get some cleaning do-higgy that you are supposed to use on cobwebs. As I was about to take out the spider web my wife said "be sure and get the spider too". Oops, I got the web but missed the webmaker. Which meant that I was clearing out the outward problem but the real problem of what was producing the web in the first place. The other incident was during our Bible Study and Prayer time last evening. A lady was sharing about her physical therapy and recovery from recent surgery. She said that she learned she had to not try and control things and her therapy would go better. The therapist was referring to her trying to move the impacted area instead of letting him move it. She said that when she let go and let him move it around it did not hurt, but when she tightened up and tryed to move it around it hurt. We joked about the spiritual lesson and I thanked her for the sermon. I guess I should have thanked her for the post, since I know she reads this blog I will thank her now. Thank you!

The point is when we refuse to deal with the cause of our struggles and continue to try and control everything we end up with ugly stuff showing up for all to see and a lot of pain in our lives. When we give God permission to take the cause of the struggle and submit to His control we will begin to heal and be free to move for Him without embarrassment of what might pop up.

So, who is in control in your life? Here's hoping that you, and I, will really let go and let God.

P.S. I am still looking for the spider that I missed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Let it Rain ...

That has been a common refrain around these parts for several weeks. You see it has been really dry, yards are now a crispy golden brown. Now that might be fine for fried chicken but not so good for your yard. The only lawns that have any green in them are the ones who have huge water bills from all of the watering they have been doing. The crops in our area are looking wilted and frankly so are many people. So we have been eagerly clinging to any weather report that gives even the slimmest chance for rain. It has seemed that even when the chances are supposed to be high for some relief, the rain just passes us by. But today, is different. Today we have had rain. I mean real, steady rain, that a teasing sprinkle, but a good soaking rain. Everyone is in agreement and we have unison chorus of "let it rain" rising up all around town.

But what about our spiritual condition? Is your relationship with Christ well-watered? Or, is it dry and dusty? Is it growing? Or, is it in desperate need of a cleansing, refreshing shower from the Holy Spirit?

On Sunday morning one of the songs we sang in worship we "Holy Spirit Rain Down". It is a plea for the Lord to send us a refreshing, renewing, cleansing shower of the Holy Spirit. For our refreshing and strengthening. For growth and encouragement. But also for cleansing away anything that is preventing us from doing, and being, all that God has for us.

Now it was obvious that everyone was saying "let it rain" as far receiving moisture from the atmosphere. But shouldn't it be just as obvious that we desire, and are unified in our desire for the cleansing, renewing, refreshing power of the Holy Spirit?

So have you been praying, hoping and watching for the Holy Spirit to rain down? Or, have you been ignoring, or worse yet satisified with, the dry, dusty condition of your relationship with Christ?

Here's hoping you are not just asking for the Holy Spirit to rain down on your heart, but that you are enjoying that refreshing rain of the Holy Spirit in your own life.

Let it rain...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Morning Musings ...

Summer Sundays are always unique, in the very least in the fact that you rarely know what to expect in attendance with vacations and other summer distractions. With that in mind, and knowing of a couple dozen regular attenders who would be gone, I instructed my set up guy to set up about 20 fewer chairs than normal. Then people started coming, and coming so we grabbed extra chairs and added them to our set up. I am not complaining about this, just commenting on it. We had a surprisingly good attendance for the middle of July. The wife filled in for our vacationing Worship leader, she did very well (as she always does) and our congregational singing was good. There was a good spirit in the whole service.

I did make a big mistake, I cut off my associate pastor from praying. He was to pray just before my sermon and I just got up after a special in song and started to preach. I was so excited to get this sermon going that I just forgot and went ahead. I have since apologized to him, and he laughed about it. Now don't get in snit (is that even a word?) we had a couple of prayers in the service. I just blew that one.

The message was about commitment (see previous post) and I equated it to buying or renting. With one you invest and are in it for the long haul, with the other you invest much less and know that it is not going to last. Too many church attenders have not really committed themselves to Christ. They have decided that they would like Christ to a part of their life, as long as it doesn't inconvenience them. I preached from Revelation 3:14-22, the letter to the church at Laodicea. The Lord said they were lukewarm and he was about ready to vomit them up. He would rather that be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm. I was really pumped about this message and have processing it for at least 3 weeks, but I felt like I didn't get the true passion of it across. My wife thought I did, but I was not happy with myself when it was done. Part of that was to have not much response to the call for commitment at the end of the message. I know intellectually that is not a great way to measure whether it was received or not, but emotionally I can't help it.

Sunday evening was another of our Summer Celebration services where we are to share what God has been doing through our service projects and care ministries. It really fell flat, the one last month was very good, this one not so much.

Here is hoping you have really bought into Christ in your life, that you are not looking at it as a flexible or temporary thing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Buying or Renting...

That was part of the title of this morning's sermon. Asking whether you have really committed to Christ or if you are just trying it out. There are many people who have made a decision in favor of Christ but have not committed themselves to Christ. There is a big difference.

This could explain the empty pews in many churches, it could explain the lack of true impact in our society by most Christians, it could explain the large gap between stated belief and the actions of many who claim to be Christ followers. This could explain why so many who claim to be Christians rarely read their Bible, it could explain the real lack of praying by this same group and it could explain why so many pastors and churches are always begging for workers and offerings.

More about this later, but for now, how about you? Are you buying, or trying to rent from God? Are your actions matching what you claim to believe? Are you committed or casual about your relationship with God? How about with your spouse, your family, or your calling in life?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Colors changing ...?

I am not referring to the changing colors of the leaves, that won't happen for 3 or 4 months, but rather the color of my neck. There are many guys around here who joke about being "rednecks", they are simply speaking of driving pickups, wearing hats, hunting and fishing (for the most part). Now I have never been accused of being a "redneck" that I can recall, but that day may be coming soon.

I have always enjoyed fishing, in fact I have written about it on my blog before. I have enjoyed being able to fish with some of my grandkids on vacation the last 3 years. My wife enjoys fishing so it is a great activity for us to do together.

But the last couple of days has me looking in the mirror to see if my neck is changing colors. Yesterday, on my day off, the wife and I spent about 5 hours fishing at a local lake. The weather was beautiful (just like my wife), we had a little picnic and enjoyed catching some fish, none of them really good size, but it was still enjoyable. Then in the late afternoon I went and purchased a shotgun. I went to a hunting store, looked around quite a while, got some advice and bought a used shotgun, case, trigger lock and some shells. Then this morning I participated in trap shoot at our local sportsmen's club. Now, before you jump too far into your assumptions, understand this was the second trap shoot sponsored by the Men's Ministry of our church. I participated in the first one last year, but borrowed a gun just like I did when I went pheasant hunting last December. This time I carried my own newly purchased gun and shells to the range. I proceeded to shoot 3 sessions, or rounds, or trap. I did okay for a novice. I hit 15 and 12 out of 25 from the 16 yard line, and 12 out of 25 from the 20 yard line and enjoyed every minute of it. The other information is that I was wearing a baseball hat the entire time.

So what do you think, is my neck changing colors? I do seem to be blending in more each day around here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why Me?

Ever have one of those days? You know, the kind where not too much goes right and you begin to wonder why this stuff is happening to you, or what you are going to do wrong next. I had one of those yesterday. Wow am I glad that day is over, but I am worried that it will come back again. Does that sound paranoid?

The real problem with yesterday is that some of it was out of my control, which means that the rest of it is my fault. I don't like that realization. So I guess I just answered the title to my post. Why me? Because of me, that's why. Is that too deep a thought for this site?

The good news from yesterday is that with that "stuff" happening with me I assume you had a smooth day. You are welcome.

Here's hoping today is different.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Vacation Thoughts ...

Vacations are good. In fact I am beginning to believe they are necessary. Ours was a combination vacation/family gathering. All of our children and grandchildren were able to be a part of the time away. We rented a cottage/house on a lake. The house was laid out well for our purposes. The lake was okay, would have been a lot more fun with a boat to use. We had lake frontage, but not beach area for swimming. We had two docks to fish off of, and we utilized them often. We had a small concrete patio near the water and a gas grill to use, we used the grill at least once everyday.

It was great to spend time with the family, to watch and play with the grandkids, to talk with and play games with our adult kids and to sit on the dock and fish with whomever was willing. The fishing was great as far as quantity, however the quality (meaning size) left much to be desired.

We stayed up late many nights playing games and talking. There was much laughter. There were quiet times to read or just relax. Everything is more relaxing by the water, at least I believe that is true.

We ate well, too well in fact. We took turns planning and making the evening meals, they were wonderful. I made pancakes for the grandkids nearly every morning. Even on mornings when they had already had some cereal or pop tarts before I made the pancakes. Those kids can put away the pancakes. I enjoyed every minute of the preparing, making and cleaning up after the pancakes.

The vacation was not without it's adventures. From water surprises in one of the bathrooms, to interesting beach times, to a fall in the water, and a golf outing that was more stressful than relaxing. I need to take more time when attempting to post about these adventures. Maybe later.

Here's hoping you find some time to get away from your routines before the summer is over.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Monday Morning Musings ...

I am back from vacation, we got home mid-afternoon Saturday. I was in my office within an hour and stayed for a couple of hours and then the wife and I went to our town's annual festival for an hour and a half. Vacation was good, more about that in other posts.

Yesterday was a different day. The town's annual festival asks the ministerial association to do an outdoor service in the park each year. The catch this year was that somehow we got word that they didn't want one this year, then 7 days before the festival began (3 days before I left on vacation) we found out they did want one. The miscommunication actually happened months ago and tracking that down at this point is of no value, so we went into hyper-planning mode. As the current president of the association I felt the responsibility to pull it together, in fact most other churches did not change their service schedule on such short notice. Bottom line is, we had the service yesterday morning on a bright, sunny, windy, warm day. The service went very well. Our worship leader, band and worship team did a great job. They went way above and beyond expectations. They had to load all of our stuff up at church, move it to the park, set up at the park, practice, lead worship, pack up from the park, take it back to church and put everything back. Way to go team, you are awesome. If you see any of that team let them know how much you appreciate their work and ministry.

An outdoor service is difficult to get a feel for the spirit, but there seemed to be a good spirit as we worshipped. You could hear the service for a couple of blocks away from the park, and we are praying that some who did not physically attend were impacted by what they heard. I preached, and those are fun but tough settings in which to preach. First, I always try to go relatively short in those type of settings. Second, share a story that captures their attention early. Third, have a very singular focus to the sermon, don't have multiple points. Fourth, don't depend on feedback to keep you going.

The message went okay, not great. I got some great news yesterday regarding a couple of people for whom I have been burdened for their salvation. They accepted the Lord over the weekend. Now that is AWESOME! That is why we do what we do. The fact that the actual moment didn't take place at church or during a service is irrelevant. What really matters is that they have accepted Jesus as their personal savior. Now we need to come along side them and guide them in this new walk. I am pumped about this and what it could mean in the lives of others as well.

Last night was another of our service project evenings. This time people were to help a neighbor on their own, or pair up to do something for a neighbor. I know of at least a couple of families that went together to do some work for a person who has had a string of tough luck recently. The wife and I stopped by there as they were finishing last evening (my timing is pretty good) and it was so cool to see the joy involved.

Here's hoping you have an awesome day and that you find someone to encourage today.