Thursday, January 29, 2009

Questions Answered ...

I already knew this, but I have been bluntly reminded recently that being the "Answer Man" is not always easy or fun. I mentioned on this blog recently that I had our teens submit questions they would like answers to, then they voted on their top 5 with the promise that I would address them in the coming weeks. I am currently teaching our youth while we are without an Associate Pastor.

Last night was the first of the questions that I addressed. I decided to tackle the easiest one first so last night I dealt with "What is my purpose?" So you can imagine of fun the next questions will be for me.

I dealt mainly with the fact that God does have a plan for them. Using Jeremiah 29:11-13 as the foundation I assured them that God's plan for them has hope and a future. I also dealt with the concern of "What if I screw up can God still use me?" That answer is a resounding YES.

It was interesting to watch faces and expressions while I shared especially as I dealt with "What if I screw up?" It is great to tell people that God loves them no matter what and that he can, and will, use them no matter the screw up if they will allow him. I used King David as one example.

It was a reasonable start to this question answering, but I am definitely in over my head with being the "Answer Man". I appreciate your prayers, in fact I am depending on them. I'll try to keep you informed with the next questions and how it goes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Great Night ...

Yesterday afternoon and evening were outstanding. I took the afternoon and evening off and the wife and I headed toward South Bend. We had time alone as we traveled, though my wife did nap for quite a bit of the trip (she deserved the rest). We met our oldest daughter for a couple of hours at a bookstore/coffee shop. Great time to converse with her and hear how things are going in her life. Then we headed to Notre Dame to meet some great friends, eat and watch Notre Dame men's basketball team get beat by Marquette. You may have seen us on ESPN last night, I had a red sweater on and we sat under the basket by Notre Dame's bench. Now you remember right?

The atmosphere was really great (church ought to be more like that) even if Notre Dame lost. It was great to catch up with friends we don't see often enough. It was great to spend 10 uninterrupted (sort of) hours with my wife.

To my fantasy baseball buddy, thanks for setting it up.

Now back to reality and a full day and evening.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another good day, in fact it was a very good day. Our weather was very cold, it was -3 at 8am not counting the wind chill. There was a good sense of excitement and anticipation before the service began. The Spirit during our time of singing was wonderful and powerful. The message went okay. The focus in the series on "Whatever ... It Takes" was on getting started. That the starting point needs to be "whatever is true" from Philippians 4:8. If I start from anywhere else I will not end up where God wants me to be. Talked about dwelling in the Word of God. Not just passing through it but knowing it and making sure it impacts how we live.

The attendance was the best we have had in a long time, and that on a cold day. A special highlight was a family from a former pastorate that made a surprise visit. I discipled him after he accepted Christ, I did their premarital counselling and did their wedding. They dropped in with their 3 beautiful children. It was a great surprise and encouraging to see them and hear how they are serving the Lord. There were other nice surprises in attendance as well.

There was a meeting and meal for the nursery and early childhood workers and parents. It was very well attended and there was a great spirit of cooperation. There were even some people who stepped forward and said they wanted to serve in this area. That was encouraging.

The evening discussion and recap of the morning message was okay. The encouraging thing there was some different people speaking up and sharing. Hopefully we are moving toward becoming a more open group where we share questions, concerns and insights.

Here's hoping you find someone to encourage this week.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

3 Things ...

I have seen this on a few blogs of people I know so I will give it go since I am not feeling the least bit creative today.

3 movies I can watch over and over: Tommy Boy, The Sting and Hoosiers
3 places I have been: Honduras, Kenya and Portland, Oregon
3 places I would like to be: on a cruise, anywhere with my wife, Hawaii
3 jobs I have held: dipping ice cream (my first hourly wage job $1.25 an hour), school teacher, shoe salesman
3 favorite foods: (30 would be more appropriate) steak on the grill, Kansas City BBQ, hamburgers on the grill
3 things I am looking forward to this summer: fishing, golfing, grilling every night
3 places I have lived: Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri (Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois as well)
3 favorite ice cream flavors: moose tracks, michigan cherry, rocky road
3 things that annoy me: people late for meetings, sales clerk who don't wait on me, dropped cell phone calls
3 things I don't like about myself: weight, eyesight, golf score
3 TV shows I watch: NCIS, Criminal Minds, Monk

That is enough for today. Now back to studying.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Difficult admission ...

As I watched some of the inauguration ceremonies yesterday it struck me as to how much the President and his family have to watch what they are doing at nearly all times. That they are expected to show a certain demeanor, certain actions and look a certain way. Imagine how difficult that must be. I don't have to imagine. Don't get me wrong I am not saying I know what it is like to be the President, but I am saying that on a certain level I understand.

I understand what it is like to have people expect you to display a certain demeanor at all times. Most pastors have this expectation from the people in their congregation. We probably have more wriggle room than the President, we certainly have more privacy, but it can be difficult all the same.

I know that this comes with the territory of being the pastor. But it is still difficult. I know that I am not supposed show anger, and that frustration is only allowed occasionally. I know that people don't really want to hear if I discouraged, after all they want me to help them with their discouragement not hear about mine. I know that I am not supposed to have bad days, but the truth is I do and so does my wife and when my kids were still at home so did they.

I am not sure why I am sharing this today. It has been nagging at me for several days and I just decided to go for it. Just remember that your pastor is a real person with real feelings and real issues in his/her life. Throw a prayer up for them today and remember the next you see them a bit discouraged that it is okay. Isn't it?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

God is good all the time, all the time God is good. That would be an apt description of yesterday. It was certainly not a perfect day, but it was a good day. Our time of singing during worship went well and the there was a great spirit during that time. One of the songs we sang is entitled "Breathe" it makes reference to God literally being my life breath that "I'm desperate for you". I really want to live in such a way that I am seeking God with the same passion and life-giving desire I do with wanting to make sure I get my next breath. How different would you live if this were true in your life?

I loved the song that one of our men sang as a special. It was so upbeat and challenging at the same time. I also love whenever he sings because he ministers and sings with a genuine passsion and great humility.

Our attendance was good given the weather we had over the weekend and it is now obvious that 3 families who have been attending some are now solidly a part of our church. That is awesome. It also points out how often several other "regulars" are absent.

The message went well and seemed to really connect with many people. I made a call for a public commitment at the conclusion of the message. There was no response. I always struggle when that happens. I battle between what I know to be true that it is not a judgement on my ability, but it is a struggle not to think that I didn something wrong. Don't feel sorry for me, I am just admitting what most pastors feel in that situation.

I got a call at home just as I fell asleep for a nap. It was a person looking for some help and I confess that my first thought was "you have got to be kidding me, I am at home, I just fell asleep ..." But I then had this reminder of a part of my sermon about "a willing spirit". Don't you hate it when that happens? I met with the person this morning and we are helping them (so don't send any hate mail).

The evening did not go as well as the week before but it was still a very good time of sharing.

Here's hoping that you are open to helping someone in need this week.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let's Celebrate ...

What should we celebrate? The Cubs are tied for first place!? The fridgid temps of the past few days have risen to a balmy 20!? The Detroit Lions didn't lose this week!? I am finally working on the weight issue!?

All of the above items as worthy of celebration, always good for the Cubs in first even in the offseason. I am almost giddy about the warm up in temps (I know thought of me giddy is bit a much, but notice I said "almost giddy"). The Lions thing, well 'nuf said. The weight thing has to be good, right?

But I have something else we all want to celebrate, I have posted 400 times on my blog!! Cue the band and let's all sing, for some of you humming will suffice (you know who you are). This post is actually 401 since I started this practice of shaking things out of my mind and typing them whether it interests anyone else or not.

So there you have it, today is a day of celebration. Join in, sing a happy song (or hum if you know what I mean) smile at those who don't understand and enjoy the day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Making the Call ...

One stressful thing for pastors who live in areas with snow is when to cancel a service. It is highly stressful. There is the decision itself which it tough. Thinking through all the implications etc... For me Sunday mornings are a very rare thing. In 25+ years I believe I have cancelled 3 times and one of those we were under a snow emergency where you were arrested if you were driving. That one was rather easy to make, not automatic because I could walk to church, but still relatively easy. One was last winter and it was a bad day. The other was a few years ago in Missouri when we had an ice storm. I regretted that one, because things started getting better 30 minutes after we cancelled.

That brings me to another of the stress points. When to make the call. You can't wait too long or no one will know in time to stay home. If you call it too early things could dramatically change for the better. You have to make it in time to let people know, contact radio and TV stations and make as many calls and emails as you can, and then you always miss some people.

We cancelled for tonight. It had more to do with how cold it is and is supposed to get than the snow. We have snow, 9 inches over the weekend and another 2 or 3 since yesterday afternoon and it is still snowing. But it is 9 or 10 degrees and dropping. The wind is picking up and after dark it will get colder quickly. We have alot of children and youth who walk to our Wednesday night activities. So we (that means me) cancelled.

Then I always go through the guilt phase. The "I shouldn't have cancelled" or the "I should have cancelled" after the decision is made.

Here's hoping you are somewhere warm and don't have to get out into the winter mess tonight.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a very good day. The weather had been bad all weekend, yesterday was actually the best day we have had since Thursday, but there was a lot of snow on the ground, driveways, sidewalks and some roads. With that in mind I was pleased with the number we had attend, it was down, but not nearly as low as I expected. Our time was singing in worship went okay, with no technical glitches which was a nice surprise. The prayer time seemed to be a good time of people really connecting with God. The message went well and people seemed to be engaged and really attentitive.

I continued our series, and our year's theme, on "Whatever ... It Takes". We looked at the choice options we have regarding what plan we follow for our lives. We can choose to have others plan for us. We can choose to plan for ourselves or we can choose to follow God's plan for us. We looked at the results of each of these choices. We used Philippians 3:7-11 as our foundation of this series for the message. The choice of others allows us to blame them if things don't go as planned. The choice of ourselves allows us to try and control everything. The choice of God's plan puts us out of control and yet secure.

In the evening we did a recap and discussion of the morning message. It was a powerful time of sharing and discussion. People could ask anything about the message for clarification or just sharing how it impacted them. I came away really pumped about the questions, discussion and real thought that was shared.

So how was your Sunday? What choice have you made on whose plans to follow?

Here's hoping that find a way to encourage someone today.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

What Would You Ask?

Last night as I was leading our youth (that's right still no Associate Pastor so they are still stuck with me) I asked them to write down any question they would like me to address. I told them that it could be about anything, God, life, Bible, culture, why the Cubs are the greatest team to root for, anything they wanted.

So what would you have asked?

Then next week they will begin to vote on the top 5-10 questions and I will begin a series and attempt to answer the questions. I told them that I would address most of them on our normal Youth night (Wednesday) but that I would also take a couple of them and answer them in a Sunday morning message. So that on those Sundays the message would be all about the youth.

So what would you have asked?

I got several last night and told them they could email others to me throughout the week. There were some really good questions. I am going to have to do some real digging to answer a couple of the questions.

So what would you have asked?

Youth today are facing a more issues, and therefore questions, than youth were facing when I was a teen. They are facing a lot more issues than youth were 10-15 years ago. I wanted to give them a chance to express some of them and make sure I was addressing some stuff that is right where they are living.

So what would you have asked? Seriously, I would love to know what you would have asked, I may even add one of yours to the series. I will call it a blog bonus question.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Getting Messed Up ...

One thing that some people probably don't think about in regards to pastors is that whatever they present in a message is not just them telling the congregation something it is the pastor getting it as well. In fact when I share a message with my congregation they hear it that one time, but I have been hearing it all week (sometimes longer) as I have studied and prepared.

So when a message is particularly difficult, realize that your pastor has already been wrestling with it for a while. The latest to really mess with me is message from last Sunday. Started a new series and introduced the theme for this year. "Whatever ..." is the theme, and Sunday's message was on "Whatever ... It Takes". I am discovering that "whatever living" really messes with you. If you are really going for it, it will mess with your schedule, your thoughts, your money, your thoughts and your choices.

I believe wholeheartedly in this message. I know it is of the Lord. I am convinced that it is exactly what we need as a church. I am also convinced, and now convicted, that it is really going to mess things up. Mess them up because too much of the time, I/we live according to my plans instead of God's. Mess with me because now I need to follow through on this theme.

The encouraging thing this week has been that I have heard from 4 different people about how the message either challenged or encouraged them. That is a lot of people to hear from in less than 48 hours, at least it is for me. I mean these were not the sterile "nice job pastor" as they walked out the door. These were specific comments about points of the sermon or comments about how they are not thinking differently. That has me excited, the messing up my schedule and other stuff has me ... well I am not sure what it has me, but it certainly has my attention.

Here's hoping something of God's Word messes with you this week. ( I don't want to be alone.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a good day in the midst of some difficulty. The difficulty was that whatever this bug is that I have is in it's 4th week and really messed with my voice yesterday. Another of the difficulties was problems with our projection of songs during worship and then in the evening we had some mixups in who was doing what musically.

The good was that there was an outstanding spirit in both the morning and evening services. My voice survived teaching a Sunday School class, preaching in the morning and teaching again Sunday evening. The good was that we kicked off a new year and new theme for the new year. I am really excited about the theme for this year.

As I posted yesterday the theme is "Whatever ...". The scripture foundation is Philippians 3:7-11 and 4:8-9. This will take us in a lot of places. Yesterday the message was on "Whatever ... It Takes". We looked at how "whatever living" looks. One of the biggest pieces of "whatever living" is that when you commit to "whatever living" you are committing to following God's will. Therefore, you don't have to fret over all the future decisions because you have already made the decision to follow God's will, "whatever living". Whatever God desires is the choice that you made. So the future decisions are simply "God is this what you want for me?". Which means I am not deliberating over whether I want to do this, just simply asking God is this way you have for me? It is still a big deal at first to determine God's will, but after I determine God's will the debate is closed. I have already made that choice.

Our attendance was fair given that we had freezing rain in the morning that kept some people away and even prompted at least one other church in town to close. 5 people from that church came to our worship.

In the evening the attendance was low, but the prayer time was powerful and there were many people who shared testimonies. The study finished out look at "Where Did You Get Your God?", looking at the positive and negative images people have of God. We finished looked at the story of the Lost, or Prodical, son. We focused on the older brother and how he missed the abundance and grace that the father had made available to him for all these years. I asked which character in this scripture people felt like they identified with the most. Also, what would need to change to be more like the father in that scripture. The discussion was kind of flat but the lesson was meaningful.

2009 is off to a good start. However, on my offering check I wrote 08 instead of 09. Not surprising, but frustrating just the same.

Here's hoping you remember what year it is and remember how much God loves you.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Whatever ...

Whatever ... That is the theme for this coming year in our church. How is that for a catchy theme? Where will I go with this theme? Any guesses as to the scripture that is the foundation for this theme?

I began a new message series this morning introducing this theme this morning.

Should be interesting.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year ...

Here it is 2009 and the first post of this new year. It is about 10:00 am. I just finished a fine breakfast of eggs and toast that my wife prepared and I am still drinking coffee. If you know me at all you know that the coffee thing will go on for the whole day nearly every day.

We went to the home of a family in the church to play games, eat and talk last night with many people from our church and other places. It was a good time. I was king in scum (that is a card game for the uninitiated), won at euchre and got crushed in Wii Mario Kart racing. I also had some great conversations.

When the acutal time for the new year to roll in arrived the wife and I were sitting on the couch in our family room and shared a brief, but still electrifying, kiss. I generally don't wimp out of the New Year's Eve party early, but this cold that hasn't let go in 3 weeks is still messing with me and now my wife is struggling with her own. Or maybe it is a variation of mine, but you never know she could have gotten it all by herself she is very resourceful.

I am looking forward to a fairly lazy day. Some reading, a nap or two, some football watching, and probably some study for Sunday's sermon.

Here's to a new year, it will be what we make of it.