Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a very good day in many respects and not so hot in some others. We seemed to have a good spirit in worship in spite of some musical struggles. We didn't seem to have that great sense of expectation that we have experienced recently, it wasn't bad just not at the level we had enjoyed. There was a very strong spirit of openness during our prayer time and even people praying with each other during singing or coming to the altar to pray during worship. We have several people going through some very difficult times personally, with their family or with close friends. That tends to bring a greater urgency to times of prayer.

The message was the second in the series on "Going Beyond", looking to go past casual Christianity, to get past wherever we may be stuck and to see God really use us for His will. This week we looked at Paul and Ananias. Two different places in their journey with Christ in Acts 9, but both heard the Lord call, listened and answered the Lord and then obeyed the call on their lives. This intersection of two so different people in such contrasting spiritual positions changed the world. One of the points that probably hit a lot of people was the fact that Ananias obediently went and prayed for his enemy. I asked the congregation "When was the last time you prayed for your enemy?" Don't tell me you have no enemies.

Our attendance was down and it was down for the month of July. We took a big hit this year in July. This weekend we have a candidate for our Associate Pastor position coming for a visit. I am really praying that we will have clarity on the next step after this weekend.

Here's hoping you are able to go beyond where you are currently in your relationship with Christ.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Am I Listening?

One of the things that really stood out to me as I studied for last week's sermon from Matthew 14:22-33 was that in the midst of the wind, the waves, the darkness, and the fear Peter heard Christ. It was between 3 and 6 am, they were battling a storm in their boat and they see something coming toward them on top of the water. The scripture says that "they were terrified" and that they "cried out in fear". My picture of this scene is these grown men screaming like junior high girls (not puttting down junior high girls just giving a word picture) as the wind is howling and the waves are pounding against the hull of the boat and splashing over the sides. In all of this they heard Jesus identify himself and tell them "Don't be afraid". Then Peter makes his request to Christ, that if he is who he said he is to "tell me to come to you on the water". Don't get hung up on the outrageous request rather notice what happens next.

Jesus answered, he gave a one word answer, "Come". That's it, no speech, no instructions, just "Come". In the storm, in the fearful moment, Peter heard him and responded.

That led me to ponder about how many times I have missed Christ's call. How many times have I only heard the wind and missed his call? How many times have I been so focused on the storm all around me that I missed his call? How often have my own screams of fear (mature sounding screams of course) drown out Christ's call?

Peter heard and then he responded.

Here's hoping you and I will listen closer and actually hear Christ's call to us. Not just during the storm but daily.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another very good day. There was a very good spirit in the worship service and a sense of expectation. I have really been praying for that sense of expectation to be there and become a regular occurrence. It has been very exciting for me to see, and sense, the level of expectation rising as people arrive for worship. I truly believe that is a sign of good things to come in the very near future.

Our time of congregational singing during worship seemed to be a time of freedom, which is a very good thing. We also had a drama to help set up the message. They did a good job and the congregation seemed to really follow along with the drama. We are planning on doing that a lot more regularly and have had several people who have stepped up to participate in this ministry. One of our teenagers sang a special in song, she did a very good job and the song really fit with the theme of the drama and message.

I began a new series of messages yesterday. It is entitled "Going Beyond" and is focusing on us moving past just enduring and really living the life that God has called us to live. To get past wherever we may be stuck and really experience an exciting life in Christ. Each week we will examine a Bible character and how they moved beyond learning from their example. Yesterday was focusing on Peter and him walking on the water to Jesus in Matthew 14:22-33. The congregation seemed to really connect with the message and I felt pretty good about what I was able to communicate. I am rarely real satisfied with a presentation, just because it is such important stuff that I am always searching for how to better communicate God's truth. Our attendance was pretty good for the middle of July.

Sorry for the lack of posts in the past week. I will try to do better this week.

Here's hoping that you are able to begin moving beyond this week and that you will help someone else get unstuck.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

What an encouraging day yesterday was, as I posted last night it was great. It wasn't the attendance, that was okay for a Sunday in July but it wasn't great. It was the obvious presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our worship yesterday morning. Our whole worship band and team were back from their vacation time away and they sounded good. The congregation seemed to really be into singing and listening to the words and meanings of the songs that were sung. There was a little more of a sense of expectation in the air. Maybe it was just that we haven't had a "normal" Sunday for a few weeks. Maybe it was that I was really into the message and felt it as deeply as any I have preached for quite a while. This one had been marinating in my heart for quite a while and especially so in the past 2 weeks. I had many tearful, heartfelt times as I prepared for this message. The Lord really ministered to me as I went through the message in our worship center early yesterday long before anyone else was in the building.

The message title was "What If ...?" The scripture was Acts 2:42-47 and Ephesians 3:20. The premise was asking what if we believed, prayed, shared, gave, worked and expected God to do what He has done before. What if we really believed that God is able? What if we prayed as if we believed that He is able? What if we shared and gave like we believed that He is able? What if worked as if we believed that He is able? What if we lived expecting God to do His part in our lives and church today?

God was really working on people's hearts and minds, including mine. I invited people to come and pray about the what ifs as we sang "Lord, I give you my heart". It didn't happen immediately, but then a person came forward, then my wife left the worship team and knelt to pray, then several more people came forward and then our worship leaders left the platform to pray. I prayed to close the service, after I commented that I didn't believe what I was seeing. I didn't believe that God was mainly speaking to the women in attendance. There was a great time of continuing to pray and share around the altar and all around the worship center.

In the evening we continued our study and discussion on being better shepherds. The attendance was good for July and the discussion was encouraging.

It was a great day.

What is your "What If ..." for your life or church? What will you do to see this come true? Do you believe that God will do His part?

Here's hoping you sense God's presence and live in that knowledge this week while letting a couple of other people around know that they are loved.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wow That's Great!

Some great things I am thinking of tonight:

The spirit in our worship this morning was great. The response and time of prayer at the altar was moving. I am encouraged and humbled. More in my normal Monday Morning Musings tomorrow.

I have a visit scheduled for the leading candidate for our Associate Pastor position. Unfortunately it is not for about 3 weeks.

My wife returned home Friday afternoon after being a counselor at a Senior High camp for the week.

My Cubs are still in first place at the All Star break of the Major League Baseball season.

I am going to see my youngest grandchild tomorrow for the first time in over 4 months, oh yeah and his parents too.

I am going to bed now, very tired.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Livelihood ...

In my Mid-Week Bible Study with adults I took them to a couple of New Testament passage on the harvest. The harvest representing people, reaching people for Christ and seeing them begin a personal relationship with Christ. In Matthew 9:35-38 and John 4:35 Jesus specifically is calling people to see the harvest and work in the harvest. We then looked at farmers and their harvest. Both of my grandparents, 2 uncles and a cousin were all farmers, which gave me a close up look at things from the farmer's perspective. Also, I have had several farmers in my congregations through the years.

For a farmer, the harvest is everything. All of the work, planning and hopes are connected to the harvest. Some years the literal survival of the farm is dependent on that year's harvest. The exception to this rule are the "hobby farmers". Those who make their living at something else but still farmer "on the side". These people want a harvest but their livelihood is not dependent on the harvest, because they make their living doing something else. It seems to me that a number of Christians and churches have become hobbyists about the harvest. There are "hobby churches" and "hobby Christians". In other words they would like to have a harvest but they do not consider it their livelihood. Whether something is your livelihood or your hobby will greatly impact how you work at something. A hobby is nice and I look forward to it, but if difficulties arise I put it aside or drop it all together. My livelihood on the other hand I can't, and wouldn't consider laying aside.

Which group would you be in regarding the harvest, a "hobbyist" or a farmer? Is reaching the harvest your livelihood spiritually speaking? Have you made decisions more like a "hobbyist" or a farmer"?

Here's praying that more of us will be like the farmers, where we realize it is our spiritual livelihood.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Sunday was the end of a long holiday weekend that began on Wednesday or Thursday for many people. As a result we had many people gone and therefore many people doing things that they don't always do. We were missing half of our worship band and worship team. My wife filled in as the Worship leader something she has done often, but prefers not to do, especially with half of the band missing. Of our 11 Sunday School classes we had 3 of our regular teachers, that includes me. You get the idea. With all of that being said I believe that we had a very good service. The spirit was good, which is a real credit to those leading for setting a great example. The message was so-so. I struggled all week coming to the conclusion of what to preach.

The message asked 2 questions: "What are you searching for? and Where are you searching?" The 2 questions go hand in hand. What you are searching for should determine where you search. Also, where you are searching says something about what you are searching for as well. Luke 24:1-6, normally used just during Easter. Where some of the ladies following Jesus came to his tomb to finish preparing the body with all of the normal spices, only to discover the body was gone. They are asked a famous question, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" My prayer is that the people will keep processing the 2 questions, and the rest of the message, all week long. I think the questions and the thought worked, though I wasn't excited by how I delivered it. Some of my struggle was that size of the crowd. Our congregation is a somewhat passive group normally, so take away nearly 40% of the group and that made for a very passive group. I struggle at times when the group is so passive, I watch for reactions and it encourages me when I can see and hear that people are into the message.

It as still a good day and I was pleased with the overall result of the day. It was fun to have a couple of relatives pop in on their way through our area. I hadn't seen them for more than a year so that was good, also they provided a couple more bodies on a very low Sunday.

Here's hoping you know what you are searching for and where you should be searching. Happy hunting!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thanks for Freedom

Today is the day set aside on our calendar to celebrate our freedom as a country and people. So I say thanks to all of those who have served, and are serving, in our military. Thanks for your sacrifices and for your willingness to serve and to give for the freedoms we enjoy and too often take for granted. Thanks to your families as well for the struggles they endure so you can serve in this way. Thanks also to those who have given their very lives so we can enjoy the freedom that has been ours throughout the years. Thanks again to those families of those who gave their lives serving, your sacrifices are greater than I can express. Those I have known, who have given their lives, have reminded me of how real the fight is and how devastating the losses are for those left behind.

Thanks also to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for your sacrifice that enables me to have forgiveness of sins and freedom in serving you.

Lord, help to remember those who have gone before me and sacrificed so much. Help me to keep praying for those who are serving today. Help me to be grateful for the freedoms I have, as an American and a child of God. Help me not take for granted any of these freedoms.

Encourage someone today, with your words, thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Another Good One ...

Today my wife and I met with another couple and interviewed them about our Associate Pastor position. This was another good interview. These are two quality people that we met with again today. This means that I have at least 2 quality candidates for the position. I have at least one other one that want to speak with and then I will really spend time trying to discern which of these people I will focus on.

This is an urgent search but I refuse to be in a hurry. Don't get me wrong, if it becomes obvious quickly then I will move on it right away, but I don't want to rush to a wrong decision.

So my wife and I are now in the process of listing the observations of both of them and our impressions. I gotta say not much negative. Great to realize there are good people available and some of them are interested in our little slice of the world.

Thanks for the prayers, keep them coming.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Good First One ...

My wife and I finished the first of the planned interviews on our road trip (see previous post) a little while ago. It went very well. This was an impressive young man and woman. These can be rather awkward moments. Meeting someone for the first time and sharing a meal together and then asking and answering questions that could influence your future.

I don't usually give too much information ahead of time to the persons I am meeting with because part of the evaluation is seeing how they handle themselves in the situation, not just the words they use to answer the questions. In fact some of the questions are not that important, but watching their thought process, reaction and response are very important. I don't leave them dangling, I work hard to make them comfortable while I observe all of this.

I am encouraged after the interview tonight and excited about the one scheduled for tomorrow. Fortunately we don't have to hurry out of here to make it to the next appointment. I spotted a Panera Bread and a Cracker Barrel nearby so I think we will likely skip the hotel breakfast offerings. I didn't enjoy the drive, I did enjoy the time of talking with my wife and I did enjoy the interview.

Thanks for your prayers and interest. Keep up the prayers this is really important.

Road Trip

This morning I said goodbye to my Associate Pastor. Their truck is loaded and they are about to pull out heading toward their new ministry position. As I have stated previously I/we will really miss him, his wife and 1 year old daughter. They did a very good job of ministry while they were with us, they are quality people and I really hated to see them leave.

In about an hour my wife and I are leaving for a road trip of our own. We will be traveling to interview at least 2 candidates for our Associate Pastor position with emphasis on youth ministry. I have processed over a dozen resumes and am now beginning to go deeper with a few of them. This is a very important process.

I am looking forward to interacting face to face with these people. A resume' is helpful, phone calls are enlightening, but face to face is often the clincher. You get to read body language, and if married their interaction with their spouse. It also let's them see me, which can be a deterrent, that is why I bring my wife along she balances me out. Also, my wife is an important part of this process. She is watching closely as I interview, she participates and her insights are very valuable to me.

I am also looking forward to being away for a couple of days with my wife. Yes we will be driving 800 plus miles and interviewing people we have never met. But, we will have time together as we travel and at night. We have been very busy for the past several weeks and are in near desperate need of a vacation. While this is not a vacation, it is a change of pace and it is away.

Here's to a safe, positive and successful road trip.