Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a highlight day. The best part of the day was ... well actually there was more than one "best part". One of the best parts was our baptism service in the afternoon. It was outdoors at one of our family's homes. They have a great set up with plenty of lawn and space to park and they have pond that works very well for a baptism service. We had 7 people get baptized, 4 adults, 1 youth and 2 elementary children. There testimonies were encouraging, the actual moment of baptism was inspiring and the fellowship was meaningful. We had a picnic following the service and the weather was gorgeous, a little cool for late August, but great weather nonetheless. Know the full background story of each one getting baptized makes it even more meaningful for me. I am always moved to joyous tears when I participate in a baptism service and yesterday was no exception. We had a tremendous number people attend the service and that just added to the celebration. After it was all over my wife got inspired and "took a few teen girls into the water". Mind you this was not baptism and none of them brought extra clothes to change into. It just make for a lot of laughs and wet rides home.

Sunday morning had a tremendous spirit in our service. We had technical problems, a video failed to work, some sound issues and, well you get the picture. But God is not dependent on our abilities and He did His thing in spite of us yesterday. There was a good time of prayer during the service and following the sermon several people came to the altar though had not made any specific plea toward coming to the altar. How great to see people being sensitive to Holy Spirit and obedient to come and pray.

The message was in our series on "Characters of Faith" using Hebrews 11 as the foundation. This week's character was Abraham, in fact we will look at Abraham one or two more times in this series. The principle of Abraham's faith we examine was that he obeyed. God told Abraham to move to a foreign place and Abraham did as God said. He did it even though he didn't know where he was going. How well do you obey when God calls you to do something that you don't understand or even know what it means? Abraham could only do this by faith. This was the original GPS system, although I called the "God Positioning System" instead of Global Positioning System. You won't do this unless you have chosen to be dependent on God, on His strength and His guidance. If you are depending on your own abilities you will not do what God asks. It also makes a difference if you are looking forward as God calls, rather than trying to live in the past. It is hard to respond to God's call if you are only looking back.

Here's hoping you are looking forward in obedience to God's call, no matter, no matter where and no matter when.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Image ...

Image is a funny thing. Unfathomable amounts of money are spent each year all in the name of image. Advertisers are always trying to present the "right" image of whatever product, company or person they are representing. Individuals seem to worry a great deal about their personal image, or at least what they think is their image.

What of the church, and those who claim to follow Jesus Christ? What image do we present? I have heard countless times of people telling me what they perceive the image of my church, and the people who attend the church, to be. (I don't think that sentence was grammatically correct, I hope you get the idea.) I have been thinking about this a lot recently, and wondering why some people have arrived at their perception of our image. Not just the church I currently pastor, but of all the churches I have been a part of and just churches in general.

Those in the church rarely see themselves the same way as those who are not a part of the church. Some of this is understandable, we will always have somewhat skewed views of any organization that which we are not participants. However, those not in the church tell us a lot of what image we are portraying to others. If they are who we are trying to reach then we need to pay close attention their idea of our image.

One common theme through the years has been "they (those in the church) think they are better than me (anyone outside of the church)." Another version of this is when someone says "I feel like those in the church look down on me, or don't accept me, because _______________ (fill in the blank)." I have come up with one reason that those not in the church have this image of those of us in the church. This is disturbing because we usually will say that we are not perfect, that it is because of God's grace that we are making it, etc ... But I believe we have created this image because we are quiet about our own struggles but we boisterous about what we are against.

I don't believe should compromise God's Word or our personal convictions, but that we need to be more open with our own struggles and less judgmental of the struggles of others. We need to exercise more compassion with those who do not agree with us. Not a pity, but a true love and desire to come alongside those who are not a part of the church, or our particular tribe of the church. Not a feeble, change with the tide living, but a true compassion and living Christlike in our world.

What image are portraying to those around you?

Here's hoping I will do better at admitting my own struggles and showing compassion with others who struggle in life. So that the image others see is Christ instead of me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Made it!

That is correct I made it! I made it to under 200 pounds. Read an earlier post entitled "So Close ...". This morning I stepped on the scale and it displayed 198.8. It was a beautiful sight. I was not expecting that this morning, so it was a very pleasant surprise.

Now to get to biggest goal of 195. When I started this at the end of January or first of February I was at 241 and some people told me that I probably shouldn't got for the 195 but now it looks like a soon possibility. I am loving this feeling.

One bummer was that I went to renew my driver's license and was ready to answer the question about how much I weighed. However, I forgot that our state does not list your weight on your license. I suppose they are trying to help people not to lie. Oh well, I guess posting it on my blog and facebook will have to do.

Here's hoping you are progressing toward a goal.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Than a Slogan ...

This year the volleyball team that I coach has adopted a slogan for the season. Well actually the 2 Senior Captains and I selected a slogan and presented it to the team as we began our practices and tryouts. The slogan is "We>Me" (We is greater than me.)

This slogan means that the team's stats matter more than any individual's stats. That what is best for the team should be the goal of each person on the team.

It is a great slogan. But it is much easier to say and wear on your t-shirt than it is to live out on the court. I am not having trouble with anyone going against the slogan, but I have been thinking about my role in fulfilling this slogan as the coach.

I realize that some of what it means for me is that on a daily basis, at practice, I need to keep the whole team in mind as I plan and lead. I also need to keep reminding my girls of our slogan and what it means for each of us.

Then I started thinking of where else this slogan could be used. As a pastor I naturally thought of the church. I believe this is a great slogan for a church. To remember and live out the we is greater than me idea makes sense for the church. It would mean that I need to keep asking "What's best for the body (the whole congregation)?" instead of what do I want.

What if you lived out this slogan in your church? What if you lived it in your home and with your family? What if you worked it at your place of employment?

I wonder if my girls realize just how big this slogan really could be?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So Close ...

This was a very exciting morning. Any day that I awaken and can fog a mirror is an exciting, although to awaken and be with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for eternity would be the most exciting morning, but that is way more philosophical and theological than what I was thinking about this morning.

This morning was exciting because I came really close. I mean really, really close. I just missed a personal goal that I began pursuing in earnest 6 or 7 months ago. The goal is to get my weight below 200. I haven't been there in, well a really, really long time. I am now about 2 pounds from my goal. I made myself the challenge to do this last fall, but didn't begin working on it until the end of January this year. At the end of volleyball season last year in a wrap up meeting with my team I told them that I was committing to getting my weight below 200 for this volleyball season. I then I asked them what they were going to commit to for the next season and what sacrifice they were willing to pursue for the team?

When I made the statement to my girls I thought I weighed around 230, but when I finally got around to working on the weight loss I was all the way up to 241. Ouch!!!

This morning I was 201.2. Not quite ready for a drum roll and victory celebration but a lot closer than I was 6 months ago. I feel better, I on the smallest hole on my belt ( I was about to move to the biggest one before I started to work on my weight.), I got a pair of shorts the other day that were 4 inches smaller around the waist than a pair I got last summer and I am going to enjoy giving my true weight when I get my drivers license renewed soon.

So close ... I'll let you know when I hit the goal.

Here's hoping you are working toward something significant and can enourage someone else on your journey.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another very good day. The weather was unseasonably cool, but the sun was out and it was beautiful. The spirit in the service was very good from beginning to end. Our worship leader and a couple of singers and band members were gone, but my wife led and the music went well. It was very upbeat, people responded and the mood was great. We had one of the best attendance days of the summer.

My message was the third in the series from Hebrews 11 on Characters of Faith. We looked Noah and the principle of faith that he showed was that he followed God's plan. He did this under extraordinary circumstances. I mean come on, he was asked to build an ark for all the animals and his family. That was an overwhelming project, let alone the fact that it had not rained and the concept of a flood was not something Noah could even comprehend. He built the ark even though he could not see the reason for this work. How well do you follow God's plan when you cannot see the reason for the action he is asking of you? I don't do so well at this either.

One author wrote that Abel showed us the "worship of faith", Enoch the "walk of faith" and Noah demonstrated the "work of faith". I want to live my faith to show in my worship, my walk and my work.

We looked at the fact that Noah literally saved his family through his faith. We examined how much of an impact our faith has on our families and even though each person must choose for themselves we can influence them by our faith. The question was how is your faith influencing your family?

Sunday evening we had another great time of discussion going deeper in how we can live out the principles faith we looked at in the morning message.

My wife's brother and sister-in-law spent the night with us Saturday and attended Sunday morning. It was great to have them worship with us and spend some time together. They live 10-12 hours away, so we do not see them often and this was a special treat that added to the day for us.

Here's hoping that you are living your faith as you work this week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Sharper Contrast ...

As my wife and I sat talking with her brother and sister-in-law last night (they stopped in for an overnight and will worship with us today) I started thinking about the contrasts of my last 3 Saturdays. I have already posted about the contrast between the first 2, and the 2 funeral services that I preached. Yesterday was so much different. I coach High School volleyball at our little local school, I am in my third year of this adventure. Yesterday was our first competition of the season. We played in an invitational at a school about 45 minutes away. The last 2 Saturdays were spent remembering the lives of people gone before we wanted them to be gone and grieving with the families. Yesterday was spent in a gym full of high school girls playing a sport that most of them love. Oh, don't get me wrong there was still some grieving going on, but in sharp contrast to the type of grieving from the past 2 weeks. It really helped me put things into perspective.

The energy in the gym was much different than the past 2 weeks. Their was a lot of cheering, their was a lot of smiling, there was a lot of animated talking, there was a lot of fun and there was the sheer joy of teenage activity. There was also sadness, even anger on occasion and some questions.

Here is my random observations of the contrasts and what it meant to me. The past 2 Saturdays helped me put the brief disappointments from yesterday into perspective. The past 2 weeks we were dealing with loss of life and how do we go on. Yesterday we were dealing with some lost games and the realization that we will play again next week. The funerals celebrated peoples lives who were gone quicker than we hoped. The games highlighted the need to celebrate life as it is lived, to enjoy the energy of youth and to recognize the great potential in all of these girls.

I want to teach my girls some lessons about life as we play some volleyball. I want them to care and give their best as they play. I also want them to realize that volleyball, and each match, is not really life or death. I want them to enjoy playing and living. I want them to cherish each other and recognize that they are building great memories. I want to be an example of living life to the fullest in Christ and that it can be done while doing well in the world. I want them to know that they have someone who cares about them beyond just what they can do on the volleyball court.

Contrasts, life seems to be full of them doesn't it? Here's hoping that the contrasts in your life are teaching you something and that you are learning and passing on the lessons.

(By the way, we won 2 and lost 2 matches. We believe we should have done better, but it was the first day of the season and we have a lot more playing to be done and life to be lived.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

The end of summer often produces some rough Sundays, with people getting in their last vacations and others shifting around to fill in and people often being tired or distracted. Yesterday started out as one of those rough days, but fortunately God never has a rough day.

Our time of worship was okay as far as the congregation participating but the Spirit just kept pouring it on anyway. Humanly we were not at our best, but God certainly showed that He is not dependent upon our abilities. If we are available He will come through. We had some of up front people not feeling well and had some technical problems, but I can't emphasize enough that God was present and in control. His control always works better than our skills.

The message was rough. I was really struggling spiritually all morning, a lot warfare going on. It was the second message in the series "Characters of Faith" from Hebrews 11. We examine Abel and Enoch and what they were commended for regarding their faith. Abel for his sacrificial, God first, giving his best offering and Enoch for walking with God and pleasing God as a result. We looked at the contrasts of those around them, Cain just offered some of what he had instead of his best. The times that Enoch lived were times growing wickedness of the people leading toward Noah and the flood. We asked ourselves whether we are giving our best to God and giving to Him first. Also, whether we are truly walking with God, or just walking on our own. Their very a few who came to altar though I did not make any plea for that, isn't God good? Those people were listening to God instead of me, that is awesome.

Sunday evening we had a great time of discussion going deeper on the principles from the morning's sermon.

Here's hoping you are waling in sync with God today and giving Him the best of what He has already given you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Contrasts ...

Many things in all of our lives are in sharp contrast to other connected things or events. Today I had one of those events. I preached a funeral today, I also preached a funeral last Saturday. Last Saturday was a double funeral, today a single. Last week had over 300 in attendance, today 30. Last week was a young father and son, today was a 70 year old. Last week the deaths were the result of a tragic fire, today was the result of the dreaded word cancer. Last week involved guys who had lived here for many years, today was a man who had lived here for 5 months. Last week had a song by Ted Nugent, today had "In the Garden".

There were also many similarities. Both involved grieving spouses left behind who are trying to figure out how life will continue. Both left behind children, or step-children who don't yet know what it all means. Both had good friends who will miss them greatly. Both involved guys who loved the outdoors. Both leave a hole in their families and in our community.

I was struck today by the realization that we just don't know when or how we will leave this life. We must be ready. It is important to have good relationships and to make amends while we are able. The most important relationship is with Jesus Christ. I was struck by the fact that if you live a generous life, helping others, you leave a lasting impact. I hope I don't have another funeral next Saturday.

Here's hoping you are making an impact and that you have people around you that are having a positive impact on your life.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vacation recap ...

Our vacation was awesome. What did we do? Very little and it was great. Someone generously allowed us to use their little camping trailer. We camped just a few minutes from home at a nice campground with a lake, some trails and a calm atmosphere. We could look out over the lake from our campsite. We walked down to the lake and took a chair and fished off the shore. We fished a lot, read a lot, slept a lot, played games and enjoyed each other's company.

We didn't catch a lot of fish and caught more catfish than anything else, even with a worm and bobber. The weather, other than some wind, was absolutely gorgeous. We camped there for 10 days, came home a couple of times, I had a couple of volleyball open gyms, my wife had a meeting she wanted to go to and she did some laundry on one of those trips. I read 5 novels, many chapters in the Bible and a lot of a couple of other books. One book on grace and one dealing with Darwin's Black Box, so nice light reading.

My wife crushed me in Skip Bo most times, I held my own in Yahtzee and Farkle. It was exactly we needed.

Then we went to visit our grandkids and their parents. We spent 3 nights there and celebrated 2 of our grandkids birthdays. We got to go to church with them and even attend their small group even though we were way older than all of them. Played with the grandkids and enjoyed just being in their presence. We met a pastor and wife that we are friends with for breakfast. We took our time getting home, even stopped and went to a nice mall that my wife enjoys.

A 2 week vacation where I miss 2 Sundays in a row was exactly what we needed. Things went well here, and that gives my confidence to maybe take most of my allotted vacation time instead what I usually do, in leaving half of it on the table.

Here's hoping you find something refreshing to do this week.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ... I'm Back

That's right, after a 2 week vacation, I am back and had an incredibly busy reentry and weekend. Our vacation time was so relaxing and refreshing, exactly what we needed. I will post more about that later. Got back in the office on Tuesday, then gone most of Wednesday and then a very busy and emotional rest of the week.

Our community had a tragic house fire that claimed the lives of a father and son. The Dad was in his 30's and the son not yet a teenager. The son attended our children's ministry some and the mom (who survived with a couple of other children) attended here as a teen. I was asked to do the funeral, the service and dinner were at our church. I met with the family on Thursday, a very emotional and difficult time as you can imagine. They have great support from family and friends which will help. Friday was the visitation and that first moment in the Funeral Home is always tough and this one was especially difficult for the family. Saturday morning was the funeral and over 300 people attended and then around 200 came to the dinner. Our church came through with flying colors in set up, tear down, clean up, preparing and serving food and showing great care and compassion. I am so pleased with how our people ministered to the family and community.

Sunday was a good day. I don't remember the last time I missed 2 Sundays in a row, so it felt a little strange. Things went well while we were gone, as I expected they would, my Associate did a great job. We had a good time of singing as we worshipped and people were engaged on most of the songs. My wife sang a special and did a great job. Sunday was our 34th wedding anniversary and the church had collected a love offering while we were gone and presented us with a card and check, it was very generous and we are so grateful.

I began a new series of messages Sunday entitled "Character(s) of Faith" using Hebrews 11 as the foundation. Sunday was just focusing on the first 3 verses to lay the groundwork for studying the people mentioned in Hebrews 11. We looked at the definition/description of faith in verse 1. Also, the fact that the people listed in the chapter were "commended for their faith". How awesome to be recognized, or known, for your faith. We looked at the fact that faith is evidence in our action, otherwise it is just our theory of faith not our living faith.

Sunday evening began our 2nd session of children's sports camp/Bible school. This week is basketball. We had a decent number for the first night and the kids all seemed to have a lot fun as well. We have a "Big Word" each night and a lesson to emphasize it, we will present the Gospel later in the week. During our first week of this, which was cheerleading, there were 6 first time decisions for Christ. We just trying whatever it takes to share the good news and impact our community.

It was great to be gone and it is very good to be back. I will post more this week on vacation and the anniversary. Here's hoping you find someone to encourage today.