Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Wow, it is hard to believe it is Monday Morning already. I realized that I haven't posted since last Monday, for the 3 of you who check this regularly sorry about that. My trip to our District Assembly, some computer problems and a busy week contributed to the drought of posts.

Yesterday was a good day. It was gorgeous around here, and that was a true blessing. I finished up the Sunday School class I have been teaching, but I am sure I will be busy filling in for other teachers as we hit summer. We had a good discussion as we finished our study on Prayer. Worship went well, and my son in law did outstanding with his special song. (This was my daughter, son in law and grandson's last Sunday with us. They are moving 3 hours away and he will be the Worship and Music pastor, part time, at a larger church. They will be greatly missed.) I threw out my sermon outline and powerpoint. When I tried to practice the sermon early on Sunday it just wasn't there, so I threw it out. I went with the same passage from Hebrews 6:13-20. Kept the same theme, Solid Hope. But I preached much more from my heart than any notes. Know where our we are placing our hope is so critical. We focused on the part of the scripture that describes the hope we have in Christ as "an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Not that we are to have a stagnant hope, but that it is a secure hope.

There was a practice of taking a ship's anchor onto a smaller vessel and going ahead of the ship as far as the chain would stretch. Then setting the anchor on something solid. This allowed the ship to be pulled forward through rough or treacherous waters. The solid and secure anchor allowed the ship to move forward with confidence in rough waters. What a great promise and picture of life. To know that no matter what we are facing our hope is firm and secure. That we do not have to just hold on, but that we can still move forward toward the hope we have in Christ.

Our attendance was very good, and I was encouraged, especially considering that we were missing many regular attenders.

Sunday evening we had a good time of sharing and digging further into the scripture about hope. The attendance was not good in the evening, but the time together was very good.

Here's hoping you have your hope in Christ. Here's hoping that you recognize that this hope is strong and secure. Here's hoping that you are not just holding on, but are moving forward no matter how rough your waters may be.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Musings ...

It is early Monday evening and I am at my District's annual Assembly and Missions Convetion. I am staying in a hotel for a couple of days and the internet in my room is not what they promised. So I am in their business center for a few minutes before I need to head back for the evening service.

Yesterday was a good, and not so good day.

The good included the spirit in our time of Worship. The good included good attendance and especially seeing 2 of the unsaved husbands who attended on Easter return to worship and the family that came on Easter because the kids come to our Wednesday night children's ministry returned as well. That is awesome! The good included the way people seemed engaged with the sermon. The message was from Colossians 1:24-2:5 and was on The Church. The church is defined in this passage as "his body", the body of Christ. Not a denomination, not a location, not a pastor, not an organization but those who belong to Christ. Then we dealt with 5 questions from the passage to consider about the church and our part in the church. I am operating without my notes or Bible in this business center. If I remember correctly the questions were Are you serving? What's best for the Body? Are you encouraging and united? Are you struggling? and I am drawing a blank on the fifth question.

I will try and share a little more about the message later this week, when my mind is not so fatiqued and I have my notes.

The good included a very good Missions Convention opening service in the evening. It was inspiring and encouraging.

The not so good included having to drive 2 hours Sunday afternoon to get here. The not so good included a few people who were absent that I am concerned about. The not so good included my Sunday School class that is just not working.

I am currently reading an outstanding book entitled "Leading on Empty". I really need this book right now. I am about half way through it and have found a lot insightful stuff. Much of it is painful to read and realize that it applies to me, but it is just what I need.

Here's hoping you have a great week. Here's hoping I can remember that fifth question. Here's hoping that the Ordination service tonight doesn't last 3 hours. Here's hoping the internet connection in my room improves. Here's hoping you find someone to encourage this week.

Here's to my beautiful wive, I miss not having her here with me. Can't wait to see her tomorrow night.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Morning ...

It is Sunday morning, about 6:10 AM and I am at church. That is nothing unusual, I have been here for over an hour. I like being at church for a while before anyone else arrives on Sunday. I like walking the building, looking at where things will soon take place and picturing who will be seated in that spot and praying for them and the day. I like taking an hour or so to just dink around (my phrase for mindless stuff that fills my mind too often, or maybe my phrase for enjoying doing things that aren't real urgent, anyway my phrase). It helps to get some stuff off my mind and attempt to focus on the real pressures of the day.

In just a few minutes I will go over my sermon, add a few things and take some away. I will also go into our worship area and preach the sermon to a lot of empty chairs and picture who may be there later. I will do some more adding and subtracting while I preach this run through sermon. I will go back home and get my wife between 8 and 8:15, she does a lot of behind the scenes stuff on Sundays, most days for that matter, and likes to be here early. The worship team begins filtering in around 8:30 and then the day really begins to take off. I will also work some more on Sunday School lesson and on most Sundays at least glance at what I will be teaching on Sunday evening. Today however, I will be leaving at 1:30 to head to our annual District Missions Convention and Assembly returning Tuesday night.

I am always very nervous on Sundays, and right about now start to worry about the sermon in particular. If it is a normal Sunday the phone will ring a few times before Sunday School starts at 9:30. It will be someone who is sick and can't make it looking for a sub, or a family member of someone who is already here looking for something they can't find at home, or something like those two scenarios. I will really begin walking around a lot just after 9 as more people arrive and as I get more nervous and fired up for the day. I will talk with many of them and walk right by many of them because my mind is focused on something else. Some people will understand and some will not.

I will teach my Sunday School class, we are focusing on prayer right now. I will try desperately to get them to share and understand how this applies in their life. If it is a typical Sunday I will feel as if I didn't get it done today. I will hustle to my office, get my mic on, glance at my Sermon again, grab a couple of throat lozenges and a glass of ice water and head to the worship center. I will encounter several people in the those hurried paces and hope I don't blow someone off as I move by. I will walk around the worship center greeting and talking with people until it is time for the service to begin. I will sit on the front row, outside chair of the left section (looking from the back) and heave a big sigh. We will begin singing and I will begin worrying again about the sermon. I will do announcements and later prayer, while praying through the entire time until I preach that the Spirit would really communicate today. I will look at my outline a few times and likely write a note of two on the outline. I will stride forward to preach and for the next 20 to 25 minutes go for it. I will finish, I think we conclude with a song today and I will dismiss everyone. I will head back and speak to many people, especially visitors before they run out the doors. I will move around and speak to more people for the next 20 minutes or so. I will walk around the church making sure all lights are off and lock all the doors while my wife waits patiently. Then we will head home. We will discuss the morning as lunch is finished being prepared. We will eat and then normally take a nap, sometimes I get this, sometimes I don't. Today I won't as I will be tired our delegates to the District meetings that a couple of hours away.

I need to get back to my sermon. This is a bit of a Sunday morning. Hope yours goes well.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Invitations continued ...

My buddy Tim makes a great point in his comment to my previous post about invitations follow up. He states that for some they may hesitate to invite people to church because church has been the cause of much pain in their life. I believe that to be true. After nearly 26 years in ministry I have seen much pain in the church, much pain from people involved in the church inflicted on one another. I have experienced some of it first hand.

One difficult thing about church is that it is made up of people, regular people with all their faults, fears and failures. These do not disappear just because they attend church and they don't instantly reverse when a person chooses to become a Christ follower. This creates a great deal of excruciating conflict. The conflict being that we have a tendency to assume that church is the safest, most secure and compassionate place on earth. That is the hope anyway. However, the church is made up of people. People with all those faults, fears and failures. Then we expect them to be nothing like that, if they are part of the church. Especially if they are the pastors.

Don't get me wrong, I have the same hope for the church to be the safest, most secure and compassionate place. Ironically I also hope for the church to be a very unsafe place. Unsafe if you are trying to be tw0-faced. Unsafe if you are trying to follow your will instead of Christ's will for your life.

My dream is for the church to be a place where anyone can walk in and be welcomed. Be treated compassionately. A place where your appearance and personal choices do not impact how you will be treated. Whether we agree with the person's choices or not they should still be welcomed and treated compassionately, because I believe that's how Jesus would treat them.

Getting back to the point of invitations and why we don't invite people to our churches, we need to make sure that we are welcoming people. That we are helping heal some hurts and change the perceptions of those who believe the church is a closed society. I don't always get it right, but I want to welcome people warmly and treat them compassionately, in or out of church. I must confess that I am typing this through tears. This is a really big deal to me. I am passionate about Christ and about the church. I desperately want the church to be the church. There are also many times that I consider doing something other than pastoring so I can really minister. But for now, I will keep trying to be the church personally and trying to influence others to do the same and to try to have the place where I pastor at the moment be the church in our community.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Invitations follow up ...

I really believe that many people who like their church do not invite many people to attend because they just don't think about it, but that is part of the point. Why don't they think about it when they think about informing friends about a restaurant or movie? I realize that people are not likely to be offended by information about a restaurant or movie and some might be about church. But seriously, when was the last time someone got mad at you for giving them information about a church? Unless we are obnoxious in how we inform them I don't see it happening very often.

It just seems that if something really matters to us that we would be active in telling others about what matters to us. Maybe that is the point, that our church doesn't matter that much to us. I agree that the big issue is Christ and our relationship with him rather than church. But I also know that without a fellowship of believers most of us will drift in our relationship with Christ. We just aren't that disciplined to do it completely on our own, myself included.

Maybe the issue is as simple as the fact that our church does prompt any excitement in us. That we go because we know, or have been told, that we should but are not moved by anthing in our church.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Invitations ...

How many invitations do give? If y0u are having a birthday party? If you are having a dinner party? If you are having a cook out? If you are going hunting? If you are going shopping? If you are going to a movie? How about advertisements? How many people do you tell about a good movie you have seen? What about a good restaurant you have found? How about a good sale at a store?

What about church? How many people do you invite to join you in church? How many people to you tell about your church, telling them what is good and why you attend?

Are the numbers the different for the above paragraphs? Why?

Todd Rhoades in the blog referenced an article by David Foster at Both blogs were dealing with why people don't invite other people to attend their church. Some thoughts ...

People know how to inform, or invite, others of things they like and they do it all the time. So what about church? If they are not inviting others to church it is usually because they do not see the benefit for their friends. If they did, quite frankly, they would be doing a lot more inviting.

What do you think?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Easter Sunday is always a great day and yesterday was another great Easter. The weather was beautiful and sunny, though a little cold for the middle of April. The highlights of the day were seeing so many people celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, to see some people attend who have never been there before, to see some spouses who are not believers attend, to see a family that before had only been the children attending on Wednesday nights and to say to the congregation "He is Risen" and hear them respond "He is Risen indeed!" Another moment was both a highlight and a lowlight, that was some of our children singing. The problem was the dvd they used didn't work correctly in our system and was real scratchy sounding. The kids were great, and their energy added a lot to the service.

We did not have Sunday School so people could solely focus on Worship and that inviting people to attend was easier with only one thing going on. We did have 30 minutes of "pre-service" music, with our band and a couple of special vocal solos. I don't think we will do this next year. We have done it the past 4 years and I think it has run it's course. So we will look to do something different next year.

I did not feel good about my message and presentation. I do however, realize that the Holy Spirit is the main communicator and that where I fail He can do amazing things. I just hate to make Him work so hard. I really wanted to call "Do over" like on the elementary school playground as soon as I finished. I felt that I was too scattered in my thoughts and that I broke a big Easter Sunday rule, "Keep it simple". But again, I am confident that the prayers of many ahead of time and the fact that God can communicate clearly where I fail. So I am counting on the prayers and the Holy Spirit. That is always a good thing.

Our attendance was slightly more than a year ago. We had some exciting moments seeing certain people walk into worship. I am rejoicing in seeing some rarely attending spouses and a couple of Wednesday night kids come in with their parents. That is awesome.

Easter is such an awesome celebration. He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What's Your Sign?

No, this is not about your horoscope, but rather what you look for to determine if it is a good day. What are your signs? What determines if you believe it will be a good day or a bad day? What guides your evaluation at the end of a day on whether or not it was a good day?

Too often we, okay I am talking about myself, we look for circumstances that are out of our control to determine if the day will be good or bad. The truth is that our attitude and choices have a lot more control over the fate of the day than mere circumstances. Granted weather can influence a day, especially it changes your plans for the day. However, that does not control whether it is good or bad. Because we can choose to have a good day even with a change in plans. My wife was, and still is, famous for telling our children while they were growing up that they could choose to have a good day or bad day. That statement usually came after some display of a bad attitude. The statement was usually followed by a rolling of the eyes by whichever child the statement was directed toward.

But the statement was, and still is, true. I have been thinking about this recently because I have caught myself getting caught up in circumstances and allowing them to influence whether the day was good or bad, especially on Sundays. The weather, people bailing on responsibilities, technical problems, attendance, and much more but you get the idea. With Easter Sunday tomorrow, I don't want to miss the awesomeness of the day. The day we celebrate Christ's resurrection. The day we focus on the sacrifice He made for us. The day when many who do not normally attend will show up and hear the gospel message. I don't want to miss the greatness of the day by getting hung up on the details. Don't get me wrong, I think the details matter, but I need to be anticipating a great day and looking for the things to celebrate. I don't want to miss it.

So I need to choose not to follow some of the signs that often detour my attitude.

What's your sign? What will you choose to follow this Easter?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

What do you know?

Isn't it nice when you have the advantiage of knowing the end of the story. I don't mean when someone ruins a good mystery by blurting out the ending before you have finished reading or watching. I mean when you are reviewing history and can look at a difficult situation and realize it is okay because you know how it ends. Easter is one of those.

Friday, looked like anything but good for those who witnessed the lies, the sham of a trial, the beating, the crown of thorns and the cross. It had to be devastating to witness all of this for those who thought that Jesus was the real deal. Because even though he kept trying to tell them, they didn't listen or didn't understand that this was the plan and that he was choosing all of this so their salvation would be possible. You see, Jesus knew that it was Friday and things looked bad, but he also knew that Sunday was coming. We know that as well.

So we can call a devastating day "Good", as in Good Friday. Because we know that it was not the end, but actually just the beginning. The opening act for Easter Sunday. It was Friday, but Sunday was coming. Sunday when the stone was rolled away. Sunday when the tomb became empty. Sunday when the annual greeting began, "He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!" Sunday when the ladies would be asked, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen!" Sunday when the provision for our salvation was realized.

Yes, we know. But as I told my children more often than they care to remember, "Don't tell me you know, show me you know." It is time, to show what we know.

He is Risen! (We know that on Friday, Sunday is coming. How cool is that?) He is Risen! ...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

There is snow on the ground, and it is still snowing! That is just wrong and so many levels. I brushed close to an inch off the windshield this morning, but it could be worse they got 7 inches about 30 minutes northwest of us.

Yesterday was another very good day. There was a good buzz in the air before the service and the spirit during the service was very good. The musical part of worship went very well, and that is with several regular people missing. My wife did an excellent job of putting the service together and scrambling right up until the service began without knowing for sure who would be available. A neat moment came while we sang and our preschoolers marched through waving palm branches. Seeing their innocence and joy was really special, the fact that one of them was my 2 year old grandson really moved me. (His Dad was pretty choked up when he saw him as well.)

The message went well, with the exception of some serious mike problems at the beginning of the message. The message was from Matthew 21:1-11, and posed the question "Who is this?" from verse 10. The question was in reference to Jesus from those watching and not understanding why there was such a celebration. The point is that your answer to that question determines your future. We examined how to decide your answer. Looking at Jesus' words, at his actions, at what happens to his followers (there lives were changed) and realizing that his words of hope and promise are for you.

The attendance was surprisingly good. It was the first weekend of Spring Break and our attendance was nearly what we averaged last year. I admit that I was not expecting that many people, but I sure enjoyed them coming to worship.

In the evening we had a special time of prayer and shared communion together. That is always special. But the time of prayer was very encouraging as I heard many different people leading out in prayer.

Here's hoping that you are not shoveling snow. Here's hoping that you are looking forward to a great time of celebration in worship this Sunday. Here's hoping that you are encouraging others to join you in worship and to hear the good news.

Now, where did I put that shovel?