Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who is really able?

A quote that it is attributed to T.D. Jakes from the recent C3 conference is "Had he not broken me I would not have known that he is able - I would have still thought that I was able." Wow, what a statement!

I love the sentiment, but in complete transparency I cringe at the potential impact of it on my life. Am I really willing to be broken in that way? If I could just see ahead of time how this brokenness would look and how it would feel. If I could just see ahead of time the potential on the other side of that brokenness. But alas, that doesn't seem to be how it works, at least not for me. As I understand for me, I need to be willing, be broken and then I will know. You see it is about trust and surrender because of that trust.

I want that intellectually, but sometimes I hesitate, sometimes I pull back and still try to do it myself. Wow, I don't like that about myself.

How about you?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Snow Day

Today is another real winter day. We have had a lot more of them this season than the past couple of winters. The schools are all out today and therefore my wife's ladies Bible Study was cancelled. I don't know if I can get my car out of my driveway or not. We live just 3 or 4 blocks from the church so I just put on my boots and walked. But I know I am facing a couple of hours of shoveling several inches of snow as soon as I walk back home. So I am not looking forward to walking back home. But I also know if I don't do it soon, then I will either have to do it in the dark or try to push through the piles with the car. Neither of those two options are appealing.

Soooo... I guess I will head home soon and start shoveling, I will just have to study later. Hope you are having a great day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday Morning Musings

Yesterday was a day in which God really worked on me. We had a lot of illness again this week, this cold and flu junk doesn't want to go away around here. We had a 3 week old baby make his first appearance in church yesterday morning, that is always fun. In spite of the illness stuff we had good attendance in the morning, 25 more than a year ago, the evening was a completely different story. We didn't have any technical glitches (see last mondays' post) so that in itself was a blessing. I began a new series of messages entitled "Breakthroughs", this will go unitl just after Easter.

It is about creating an awakening in us for God and the things of God. To create a true hunger for God and make sure that he is the one fulfilling that hunger and not other junk. One of the statements I made to my congregation was that I was going on this journey whether any of them follow or not. I didn't say to be arrogant to emphasize that this is very personal, that God has really been dealing with me in this area. I am very excited, and nervous, to see where God is going to take me, and us, in this journey.

We had a wonderful time of prayer during the service. There were some people who came forward that I had never seen come to the altar to pray before. The altars were completely full I believe. God is doing some very good things among us. Someone from the community came to an event at our church recently and commented to one of my people that our church must be changing. When asked what was meant by that statement, the person said "because who I see attending this church, they would of never felt accepted attending in the past". I love that observation. How cool is that?

Here's hoping you realize how much God loves you and that your hunger for God is increased this week.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What am I hungry for?

I have recently begun to realize that I have a problem with food. My problem is love it, a lot. You see I not only enjoy eating when I am hunger, I have come to the realization that I love to eat even when I am not hungry. A sad fact is that I have sometimes use food to feel better if I am down. I will even use food to feel better if I am upset and of course I use food when I am feeling good. As you can see this pretty much covers most of my life. Disturbing isn't it?

A year ago I realized that I was 52 pounds heavier than I was when I played my last college basketball game. In 1977 I weighed 190 pounds, give or take a couple. So last year at this time I weighed in at 242. For those of you who don't know I am 6' 3" so I am not the "round mound of rebond" (an old school reference, how many of you know who used to carry that nickname?), but 52 lbs more is disturbing. So I began a public push to lose some weight. In 6 or 8 weeks I lost 13 pounds and within 8 months had lost 25 lbs. But I am now back to only being down 12 pounds from the all time high, or low depending on your point of view.

As a part of my sermon this morning I shared that I have come to the conclusion that I am addicted to food. Now I realize that food is good up to a point, in fact you must eat to live. My problem is that too often I am living to eat. Recent issues with my health, mainly high blood pressure, have really caused me to desire to lose the weight. I am beginning to realize that it really is a life or death issue, as in improving my chances for a longer life if I lose it. But the bigger issue is that I believe this obsession with food and the resulting weight gains are hindering my walk with the Lord. How is that you may ask? Because anything that I am that obsessed about is going to cut into the time I should be relying on God. Literally there are times that I have a greater hunger for food than for God. OUCH!!!

John Piper, in his bood Hungry For God, writes, "The wekness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavoury, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with other things." Does that ring any bells in your soul? It did in mine. Later on the same page he added, "Your soul is stuffed with small things and there is no room for the great." Wow, how true and painful is that statement?

So I am seeking a breakthrough in my addiction to food and a shedding of the excesses in my soul so that my appetite for God can return to the level God created. I don't want to fill up on junk and miss what he has for me.

How is your hunger?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Absence Makes ...

This is the 3rd weekend in a row that my wife and I have been apart. Two weeks ago she went west with a friend for a nice getaway. Last weekend I was golfing in Florida with friends (see previous post). This weekend she is babysitting 4 of our grandkids while our son and daughter-in-law are at a seminar. All of these weekends were good things individually, but together they have resulted in 9 nights apart in 17 days.

These absences have definitely made my heart grow fonder for my bride of 32 1/2 years. We are not joined at the hip and we are not completely dependent on each other. However, we do not like being apart so much in a such a short period of time.

I believe we need to find a way to get away together sometime in the very near future. So in my case the old adage is certainly true, "Absence makes my heart grow fonder".

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Sunny Break

I had a wonderful privilege of having a 2 day break in the sun in Florida. Through the generosity of a friend I was able to go to Orlando last week for a couple of days of golf. It was awesome, tiring, fun and remarkably refreshing for something that wore me out.

I flew out at 6 am (after sleeping 2 1/2 hours) Thursday from Detroit, laid over for about 45 minutes in Cleveland (BTW I was not humming "Cleveland Rocks" from my experience) and landed in Orlando about 10:15. After about 45 minutes I got my bags (suitcase and golf clubs) and called for my shuttle. Got to the hotel at 11:30 and was getting on a bus to head to the golf course by noon. This was an outing for the college I went to out of high school, so there were 80 people from all over the U.S. I was in a foursome with my son, a good friend from college and his son. We all get along great and had a blast together. As I was getting on the bus I looked and recognized my brother-in-law. I had no idea he was going on this trip, he was coming from the Kansas City area. We didn't play real well but had a great time with each other and playing such a beautiful course. Then we had a great meal at the course.

Friday morning breakfast was at 6 am and we loaded the buses at 6:45. We played another wonderful course. Unfortunately we played a 2 man best ball format in the morning and while I got to play with my son we didn't not get to be with our friends, the other team was nice but it was not the same. We had fun again and didn't play that terrible for us, but we didn't come close to any prizes. The weather was beautiful. In the afternoon we played a regular 4 man scramble with our friends and played under par, but we were a few strokes from the prizes. The good news is that my friend's son did win the longest drive for those 49 and under, that was pretty cool. After 36 holes, on a great course and some good food we were ready for the day to be done.

Saturday morning the buses didn't leave until 7 am, we got to sleep a few extra minutes. The course was the best of the three. We were to play on our ball all the way through for individual straight scores. That didn't bode well for any of our team, but given the difficulty of the course and playing from the championship tees I was too upset. As we began playing a course official stopped us and told us not look for any golf balls that landed out of bounds. When we asked why he said there were moccasin snakes and not to try to get anything out of the ponds because of the crocidiles (sp?) (or alligators I don't remember which). I don't know if he told all the other golfers or just our group to try and hurry us along. In the afternoon we were back to a regular 4 man scramble unfortunately my son and I both had to leave after 9 holes to catch our flights home. Our team was 2 under after 9 holes which was pretty good.

It was a great time in the sun, with good friends and playing golf in February. It was even worth losing sleep a couple of nights for the enjoyment of a great couple of days.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Pat on the Shoulder

Someone made a simple gesture yesterday that was very powerful. I am confident that the guy who made this gesture has no idea how meaningful it was to me. Morning worship was a difficult time given all of the glitches we experienced (see previous post for details). Just before I got up to preach the man sitting behind me reached out and patted me on the shoulder. I assume that the motivation was to let me know that he was with me, that despite all of the problems that I needed to just preach what the Lord had led me to prepare. It was a powerful moment.

You see I take everything that happens in worship personally. I accept responsibility for it, whether I had anything to do with it or not. I don't mean in a boastful way, but with a "this is really important and if it goes poorly then I feel responsible" feeling. Given everything that had gone wrong up to that point I was struggling not to be distracted which is not a great frame of mind from which to preach. So as I am about to rise from my chair in the front row and go preach I feel a hand on my shoulder and got a double tap. That is a guy thing, not a squeeze that might be a girl thing, but a double tap on my shoulder. I took it to mean "go to it, I am with you".

I must confess that I am rather emotional as I type about this now more than 24 hours later. I really needed that encouragement. I love that he did it, I love that God prompted him to do it and I love that I have that kind of support.

So go ahead and let those around you know that you are supporting them. Let them know that they are not alone in whatever they are facing or are about to attempt. Go ahead give them a pat on the shoulder, it just might make a big difference in their life.

Who are you patting on the shoulder?

Monday Morning Musings...

What a wild Sunday. First I got home from my Florida trip at 12:30 am on Sunday, got to see about 1:30, then got up at 4:30 for a full day of Sunday. Then my driveway was all ice as I left at 5:00 and it was raining. It warmed up a couple of hours later and there was no big problem for people getting to church.

We were missing 3 of our 5 regular band members we had subs for 2 of them. There is a lot of flu and severe cold junk going around our area. My Associate Pastor was home sick with the flu and he just one of many. Our attendance was the lowest it had been for a long time. It seemed that everything that could go wrong technically did go wrong. My mic just kept squealing and we never did get it solved in the morning. (That meant that the message did not get recorded for the website. I will try to preach it again to some cardboard cutouts later so we can get a recording.) One of the people who was to sing a special song had problems with their tape and it never did get fixed. I used the worship leaders headset mic to preach but it is much different than mine and it didn't sound quite right. Then just after I started preaching a steady drip of water began just in front of the platform. How is that for piling on?

With all of that we had a good spirit in the service. People participated well and the sermon came off well. A big thanks to all of my people who began praying when things started to go wrong. Thanks also to my worship leader, our worship team and band for not panicking and continuing to focus on the main thing.

More later on a special moment from yesterday. Here's hoping things go well for you today, but remember that whether they do or not, God is still God.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Giving it away ...

Today I helped with a wonderful event today. Our local Kiwanis Club, of which I am a member, hosts an annual Soup & Pie lunch/dinner. We serve 5 different kinds of soup and at least 8 kinds of pie. The members of Kiwanis underwrite the food costs, we sell advertising in a book that is available to everyone and people buy tickets for $5. This entitles them to as much soup and pie as they would like, while they are sitting at our place. It is a tiring, but fun event to work. I spent about half of my 4 hour shift washing dishes. (Don't tell my wife.)

All of this is done to raise money for scholarships. We then choose qualified applicants and give them a $1,500 scholarship (the money is not always the same depending on how many we give) for college. This is the 25th year of doing this wonderful event. The first year they gave out $600 total to 2 or 3 students (that went a lot further in 1983). Last year we gave out 6 or 7 $1,500 scholarships. We now have a large enough fund that we are giving from the interest and letting it continue to grow, insuring that scholarships will be available long after we are all gone.

What a great legacy a handful of people began. People come from an hour away to eat, but more importantly to support the cause. Every member of our little Kiwanis club pony's up the money to cover the costs and nearly all of us work anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to see this happen. How cool is that?

Now if a small group will work that hard, and give that much, for scholarships how much are we willing to work and give to see people get the ultimate scholarship of eternal life with Christ?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Warm Wheelchair ...

That is what I expect to be in by Saturday, or maybe even Friday, evening. I am scheduled to fly to Orlando early Thursday morning. That explains the warm part. The wheelchair comes in because I am scheduled to play 90 holes of golf from Thursday afternoon through Saturday afternoon and then fly home Saturday night. I haven't swung a golf club since last September. I am going with my son and long time friend and his son. I am having nightmares of needing a wheelchair when attempting to get off the plane on Saturday night. Not to mention how I am going to then drive 2 hours home, get up early Sunday morning when I will teach a Sunday School class, and then preach in both the morning and evening services.

I realize that for all of you who are stuck in this below zero wind chill area with blowing snow are not about to express any sympathy to me. (I hope my golf shots go on for as long as that sentence seemed to, go on that is.) In fact my nightmares include people telling me that it is what I deserve for bailing out during winter and attempting to play like I am still a young buck. Another of my nightmares is that I will golf my usual game which could be quite embarassing on such nice courses. Prompting people to ask why I came all the way to Florida to play that poorly. To which my reply (in between groans) will be that it was below zero wind chill when I left home. To which I assume they will say ooohhhh, or something clever like that. To which, is it my imagination or are there a lot "to whiches" in this post.

So if I don't post again until next week you will now know why and can either pray that I don't end up in a wheelchair, or that if I do it is a cold one. The direction of your prayer will be greatly influenced by the weather wherever you are currently residing.

Here's to warmth, sunshine and avoiding wheelchairs.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Today is cold, but not as cold as yesterday. Yesterday morning the wind chill was in the -20's, today it is merely -12, a viritual paradise feeling. Not! With the cold and the fact that it was snowing and blowing with 30 to 40 mph winds yesterday I feel fortunate to have had such a good day. The spirit in our morning worship was very good. We came into worship after a Teacher Appreciation Breakfast where we honored our Sunday School teachers. There was a surprisingly good attendance for this event given the frigid conditions. We worshipped around tables since we had just finished breakfast there a few minutes earlier. That makes things a little more difficult, but it worked out very well.

We had a surprisingly good attendance for worship and even had visitors who braved the cold. We have some newer people who have really gotten established and are now regular attenders. I had a couple of great conversations with a couple of these newer people yesterday and it was fun to hear one of them talk about a mutual acquaintance that they have been inviting to come to church. Another of these newer people talked about loving our church and all that is offered to them and their children. Those type of conversations certainly warm a pastor's heart.

Amazingly we had good attendance in our service last evening, with the wind still blowing and the actual temperature down around 3 or 4 degrees. I have been doing a series called "You Asked For It", where I am addressing questions from the congregation, last night was dealing with forgiveness. We had what we called a "hospitality" after the service, that means we eat. The lesson prompted some awesome discussion as people sat around their tables.

All in all yesterday was a generally encouraging day. Oh, it had a moment or two that made me grit my teeth, but that comes with the territory of being a pastor.

Here's hoping you can find a way to stay warm today. If nothing else works remember that Jesus is passionately in love with you.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Current Reads ...

I have 3 books going currently. "unChristian" by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons is an outstanding study of a 3 year research project into the perceptions of Christianity and Christians by those outside of the faith. It is very convicting and eyeopening. It is not just a rant against Christianity, but a real study with analysis about how to help change some of these perceptions. I am 2/3 of the way through this one, it is a good read but not a quick read.

I have just started "Breaking the Missional Code" by Ed Stetzer and David Putman. It is a look at how the church needs to really study the community, or region, in which it is ministering. That there is a need to know the culture in order to effectively minister among the people of that area.

I am reading "Hazards of Being a Man" by Jeffrey E. Miller. I am using this with a Bible study I am doing with some men in our church. It deals with some challenges that men face that can cripple our spiritual walk. Such as misplaced priorities, deflecting responsibility,unresolved anger, absence and partial obedience to name a few.

Next on my reading list is "Simple Church" by Thom Rainer and "Pure Desire" by Ted Roberts.

What are you reading?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Where is your picture?

We have pictures of our children and grandchildren displayed in many places in our home. We have pictures of our wedding up to remind people that we used to be much younger. We have several pictures on our refrigerator of children from our church and past churches to remind us of past and future. All of these pictures have some things in common. They are of people we care about, pray for and look forward to seeing again.

That got me to thinking about those who I loved who have already gone on to heaven. I just started to wonder, what pictures do they have on their walls or refrigerators? I know, they not even likely to have these items in heaven, but stick with my thought for a bit. (A "bit" if you are not aware is for however long it takes you to read the rest of this post.) The reason I ask that is because of the last reason I have most people's pictures around, that I am looking forward to seeing them again.

Do those who have gone to heaven have my picture up because they believe they will see me again? Meaning that they expect me to remain faithful and join them in heaven. Is your picture on anyone's wall in heaven? Are you living in such a way that it would be expected that you are welcomed at the end of your days by hearing, "well done, good and faithful servant"? Can those who have gone ahead anticipate you joining them?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

How many would show up?

I was a pall bearer at a funeral today. The man was a fellow member of Kiwanis Club. He was oldest member and was a really neat guy. He was most likely the proudest Kiwanis member as well. His wife died about 7 months ago and he has just not done well since then. He was an incredibly patriotic man and was proud of his time in military service. He loved to tell stories and had a lot of them. It was a real honor to be a pall bearer for him.

One of the things that was told during the service was that he used to drive by the funeral home during nearly every funeral, of the ones that he didn't attend that is, just see how many people showed up. It was noted that he would have been pleased with the turnout. It got me to thinking, how many would show up for my funeral?

Have you ever wondered about that? I can't be the only one, can I?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

We had another good day as a church yesterday. There was a good, if not great, atmosphere as we were entering our time of worship. I thought the congregation was more enthusiastic than normal in their participation during singing. The special song before the message was very good and really set a great mood as I began to preach. Our prayer seemed to be a time where many people were really joining together in prayer. Our attendance was good, and that was with several very regular attenders absent because of illness, travel or work.

As I finished the sermon, which was a follow up to last Sunday's message on God's call to all of us to follow him. This time it focused on following him and following the vision he has for each of us. To Simon, Andrew, James and John in Mark 1 he gave them the vision of becoming "fishers of men". He is still calling us to follow him today and he has a vision for each of us as well. God is not seeking the qualified, but the willing. He will then qualify those who are willing. We must answer the call to follow first. At the conclusion I gave people the opportunity to respond by taking communion. We had a very moving time as people came forward to share in communion. I had set up our altars to the side of our worship center on Sunday, instead of in the front. Many people went to the altars before they took communion and many went after and prayed. It was a special time.

Last night we had some people over to our house to watch the Super Bowl, many watched occasionally while playing games. Two of the families are new to our church and I believe it really helped them get to know others better. It was a very good night and the bonus was a very good game to watch that went down to the last second. Plus the Patriots got beat!

Yes, it was a good day. Here's hoping you have a good day and take time to enjoy it.