Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Musings ...

Yesterday was a painful day. The pain was physical. I spent most of Friday and all of Saturday in bed trying to get over a nasty cold. The result, the cold is now a minor issue. The problem was that when I woke up yesterday and attempted to get up there was severe pain. A sharp stabbing pain in my lower back and all the way down my left left and foot. I fell back into bed took some ibuprofen and put the heating pad on high on my back and hip. A couple of hours later I got up, got ready and headed to church. In between my wife called my Associate Pastor and told him to be ready to preach. My cold was much better, my back, hip and leg were another story. I decided I could make it, though my leg and foot were mostly numb. I looked down at my foot as I took steps to make it was going where I wanted it to go. Actually rather amusing if it weren't for the pain.

Worship went well, at least I think it did. I was not a strong participant in the service. Our energy level seemed a bit low for the day. Maybe I set the tone for that, not sure. The message went okay, it was hard for me to really evaluate it because I was trying not to fall down while I preached. The remarks I received from several people indicate that it hit the mark, was understandable and applicable. I can't ask for a whole lot more than that, can I? Our attendance was down a little.

Sunday evening was our third week of our new format with our Sunday School ministries in the evening. The first 2 weeks were way up numerically and in enthusiasm. This week took a small step back in both energy and number, but both were still significantly better than it had been. My class went well, a little more interaction this week. They are getting a little more comfortable with each other and with me. I am really excited about this group and what we are studying. A third of my class are people who were not attending Sunday Sunday before we made the change.

Here's hoping for some feeling in the leg and foot, besides pain. Take some time to encourage someone this week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another very good day. Our church served breakfast to 200 runners, plus workers, for a 5K run that raises money for college scholarships for local students. This is the our fourth year of doing this and we do it as a service and to support this very good cause. We have 15 or so people who do this work, we also supply and man a water station along the race route. We cover all the costs of this and really enjoy doing it. I mixed up batter for over 600 pancakes. I think my shoulder is sore this morning. This is always a great time of service.

Worship went well, but it was slim in numbers when we started. People are still adjusting to starting a few minutes earlier and several people we helping clean up from the breakfast served at the high school for the race and couldn't get to church on time. People drifted in and our numbers were respectable when it was all said and done. The slow beginning impacted people's participation but they got warmed up and seemed to get connected as the service went on. We were able to introduce a new baby on her first Sunday at church, she was just born on Wednesday. That is always fun for the church.

The message was from the series on Characters of Faith in Hebrews 11. This week we examined Moses and his faith. I focused on the fact that Moses stood strong in the face of adversity. He sometimes did it after some hesitation and sometimes displayed some shaky faith. However, shaky faith is still faith. He certainly overcame his initial hesitations and shakiness to become a great leader and a picture of faith. He had the advantage of parents who stood strong under pressure, otherwise he wouldn't have even survived. He displayed confidence in God, in God's Word and in God's plan even when he wasn't sure about the plan. How are you holding up in the face of the fires, or pressures, you are facing? A strong foundation, God's Word and dependence on Him, is vital to keep from being knocked down.

Our new format of Sunday School on Sunday evenings was in it's second week yesterday and we had even more in attendance than the first week. It was very encouraging, not just the number but the atmosphere was very good again. My parenting class had several new people in attendance and we had a good time again. Our children and youth were up again and that was the focus of us making this change.

Here's hoping you will have you confidence in the Lord. Here's hoping that you will stand strong no matter what you face this week. Here's hoping you can help hold someone else up in the storm they are facing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dealing with change ...

The old saying is "the only person who likes change is a wet baby". It is a cute saying with a fair amount of accuracy connected to it as well. It is not completely accurate, there are those among us who embrace change. I am often one of those, much to the dismay of many people in the congregations I have pastored. Many people will say "we have never done it that way before" and they use that statement a reason to keep things the same. I have a tendency to hear "we have never done it that way before" and think cool, let's give it a shot.

The real question is, will this change be better for the family, the church, the community, my spouse, my kids, my health, etc...? The question most frequently answered is, will this change upset my comfort or routine? The first question is the better one to consider. The second question does not take others into consideration.

I have to remember that change just for the sake of change isn't the best move. It isn't much better than the attitude of "I shall not be moved".

We made a huge change at our church last week. I mentioned it in Monday Morning Musings post this week. We moved our Sunday morning Sunday School ministry to Sunday evening. We still have one class that meets at the historical time on Sunday morning. This is for those who cannot come back in the evening, or will not come out on a Sunday evening. The rest of our groups meet in the evening. We made this change after considering it for a couple of years. The real focus was that we were not reaching children or youth on Sunday mornings at 9:30. Those numbers just kept going down. However, whenever we did ministry for the children or youth on a Sunday evening we would reach a lot more of them. So we determined that we really needed to make this change if the children and youth really mattered.

I really did not know if it would work or not, I also realize that one week is just the opening scene of a feature length picture. The one week evaluation is outstanding. There were several more children in attendance, the youth were up and the adults actually went up as well. The overall number was up around 25% over our average. Now we keep at it and see if this trend continues. We also look to see if we have people who drop away because of the change and reach out to them.

The change was uncomfortable to many. Some just from a tradition and preference stand point and some for a true scheduling conflict. But the question of "what's best for the whole body?"

Are there changes you should be making in your life? Changes in eating habits, exercise patterns, sleep habits, relational choices, serving others, etc ...?

Here's hoping you make the changes that are best for all concerned.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

We had a very good day yesterday. We began a new format yesterday, our Sunday School moved to Sunday Evenings (except for one class) and Worship started 20 minutes earlier. It was a very good day all the way around. The morning went well, many people arrived late as they are still getting used to the new time. Though in all honesty many of them come late most of the time. Music went very well and there was great energy in the service. We showed a great video about being the one to reach out and make a difference in people's lives. We threw footballs around as we reminded everyone that it was the "kick off" to this new season of ministry. One of our youth sang a special and really ministered to us.

The message continued the series on "Characters of Faith" from Hebrews 11. This week looked at Issac, Jacob and Joseph and the passing on of their faith. We examined how we can follow their examples. We are to pass on our faith. Through how we live and what we say, in other words making sure our walk matches our talk. What are you passing on to others? We are to pass on the truth to others. Howard Hendricks said that in a world screaming for answers too many Christians are stuttering. We are to share the story of our faith. Our personal story of our journey to and with Christ and the story of Jesus Christ and His love, grace and sacrifice. All of this must be done in faith and by faith. What are you sharing with those who follow you?

The evening was great. It went well, it was high energy and our attendance was outstanding. We had 25% more than we have been running in our Sunday School recently. We had people who have not been attending Sunday School, and this was in all age groups. I started a group on parenting, entitled "Parenting Isn't For Cowards" and some people actually came to the group.

I was very encouraged yesterday. That always makes for a good day.

Here's hoping you finding something to be encouraged about today, or that you simply choose to encourage someone else.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Labor Day weekend is usually considered the end of summer, which means the last summer Sunday. Yesterday certainly had that feel. Even with all of that yesterday was a very good day. People seemed a little laid back as they arrived for Worship, but they quickly got into it and participated. The Spirit during the music part of worship was good. We had very few technical glitches yesterday, which is always a plus. The messaged continued the series on "Characters of Faith" from Hebrews 11. We looked at Abraham again this week, specifically about him taking his son Issac to sacrifice and God providing. Abraham passed the testing in his life in this instance, and several others. He passed because he knew God's promises and believed them. He believed God, he didn't just believe in God, he actually believed God. Do you believe God? He was living on God's promises not his own promise. If he had been living on his own promises he never could have obeyed. Our faith is displayed by our living much more than by our words. What does your living say about your faith?

Our attendance was decent for Labor Day weekend. We had very few visitors. Most of our schools begin this week. We also begin our new Sunday Night format this next Sunday. Our Sunday School classes will be on Sunday evenings, but with some new twists. We have discovered that we are not getting children to Sunday School on Sunday mornings, but we get many more when we do anything in the evening. It is a big risk, but the old saying is "no risk, no reward". We have to do something. I am very excited for this change to begin. I will be teaching a class on parenting. We are going to make sure we have at least on option for adults that is on a relevant, and felt need, topic.

Today I am looking forward to a very lazy day and time with my wife.

Here's hoping you find some time to relax today.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Anticipation ...

Anticipation is a powerful thing. It can keep a young child awake with delight the night before Christmas (a few adults are awake that night as well, usually putting toys together and wrapping presents). It can make more than a few us giddy and giggling (I would never admit this personally) as we await the arrival of loved ones we haven't seen in a while. It has been known to produce pacing, hand rubbing, spontaneous bursts of somewhat incomprehensible words and many other strange rituals.

Yes, anticipation is a powerful thing. What have you been anticipating? Do you have some memorable anticipation moments, or events from the past?

So today I choose to look forward with anticipation. I choose to expect something great to happen today. I know that it might not, but what if it does? What if it does and miss it because I wasn't even looking for it?

It is true that sometimes the anticipation of an event is greater than the event itself. It happens where the event just doesn't live up to your anticipation of the event. But I still prefer to anticipate, because the alternative is to be pessimistic, or even worse have no feelings, in advance of events.

Anticipation is a powerful thing. What are you anticipating? How different will the events of this day impact you if you would just look forward with anticipation?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Questions ...

I love questions. I have always liked questions. At least I have always liked asking questions. As a kid and a student I was always questioning things. I haven't asked, which is ironic given my love of questions, my Dad whether I drove he and my mom crazy with questions as I was growing up. But I know that more than a few teachers, leaders and friends have wondered about my love of questions.

What many people have never realized about me is that I constantly ask myself many more questions than I ever ask others. I am constantly questioning myself and asking questions on how to do things better. I love to evaluate, that requires questions followed by answers of course.

Here some questions I have been asking recently:

Am I living up to the potential God desires of me?
What should I be focusing on in my personal relationship with Christ?
How can I communicate God's Word, and His vision, better to my congregation?
How can live more compassionately?
What does a life fully committed to Christ look like where I live?
Who is hurting that I am not noticing?
Why can't the Cubs get to the World Series?
How has "Big Brother" lasted this long on TV? (Hey I didn't say all the questions were deep?)
How can show my grandchildren that a life lived for Christ is worth it?
What should we quit doing at church?
What should we start doing at church?
Is there a way to not mow the lawn and not have it get too long?
Is there a way to eat "Buster Bars" from DQ without gaining weight?
Why do I struggle with journaling when I want to do it?
How can show my wife how much I love her on a daily basis?
How can I better express appreciation to all the people who sacrifice so much in our church?
How did the weather report become the most important thing on the news shows?
How old is Regis?
Does anybody care about these questions?

Here's hoping you are still asking questions, and finding some answers.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Testing ...

I recently had to renew my driver's license. In the routine of renewing you must take an eye test. I skipped the first part of the test and just told the lady that I need my glasses or contacts. So she moved me to the second part and tested my vision with while I was wearing my glasses. I passed the test, perfectly as I far I could tell, by the way.

That test was easy. No studying, no stress, no wondering about the outcome and it took very little time. It didn't mess with my schedule or emotions.

Not all testing is that simple. Especially the testing of our faith. When we face situations that shock us, that cause stress and that hurt us, that testing is far from simple.

How do you handle the tests you face? For my eye test I was confident that with my glasses I would pass. Because I had been tested before and passed. Also, because on a daily basis I had no trouble seeing what I need to see. As for testing of my faith shouldn't the same principles apply? Has my faith been tested before? Has my faith passed the test in the past? That question is the hard one isn't it?

Here is the good news. If my faith is in Jesus Christ then I can have confidence about the testing. Because He has not failed and on a daily basis He comes through. I must still exercise my faith, I must make sure I don't switch things up and put my faith in myself. I must remember that now matter what God is still God.

Here's hoping you are passing the tests you face today.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Happy Day ...

Today is the anniverary of my birth. Therefore it is a happy day. Most people call it a birthday, but my actual birthday was more than 50 years ago, 54 to exact. So I am choosing to call it a happy day, because I am happy to still be celebrating this anniversary and happy that I am aware of it as well. At least in my reality I think I am aware, if I am not please do not tell me because then it wouldn't be a happy day. Thank you for your cooperation.

To celebrate I having staff meeting this morning, volleyball practice later in the day and participating in my Fantasy Football draft tonight. I believe that is a full day, considering that in between all of the above events I will be studying, talking with people, planning and other stuff.

On Sunday my congregation presented me with a card and a gift card to Bass Pro Shops. That made me very happy. Now I can get a new fishing tackle box without feeling guilty for spending the money. That makes me very happy.

So, Happy Day to me and all the others out there who happen to have been born on my happy day.

Here's hoping you have a happy day no matter when you were born.