Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was an outstanding day. There was a good spirit in worship yesterday morning. There was good engagement by the congregation as we sang. The weather was outstanding for the last Sunday in November. The attendance was the highest it has been in quite a while. Personally, it was a real joy to have my son and his family worship with us yesterday. Since he is a minister as well, we rarely get the opportunity to be in worship together. I began my Christmas series of messages yesterday.

This year the Christmas series is entitled the "Songs of Christmas". I am taking a secular and spiritual Christmas song each week and contrast the messages and look at where they connect, or don't connect, with the Biblical account of the Christmas story. This week we looked at Luke 1:26-38, 2:6-8 and used the songs "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Mary Did You Know". I asked the question "What do you know about the Christmas story?" Do you know more about Santa or Jesus? The difference is the difference between myth and miracle. Do you know that you are personally known by Jesus? Not just a name on a list, but you have someone who knows your hopes and fears, your dreams and doubts and everything in between. Do you know that you are forgiven? It has been offered to you. You are not under scrutiny by truly cared about. No fear of a lump of coal if you don't perform up to some vague expectations. Do you know that Jesus can change lives? A present give a moment of joy, or even a period of satisfaction, but with Jesus there is a changed life that can endure for eternity. This is from a Savior that was born to you. A phenomenal personal gift.

What do you know? Who are you depending on this Christmas season, the myth or the miracle? What will you do with what you know?

Went home after church and ate lunch with my son, daughter in law and 4 of my grandkids. That was a special blessing on a Sunday. Then I got in a nap, not always possible. Last night was an encouraging and enjoyable night. There was a good group of teens in their group. A large group of children and they are nearly ready for their Christmas program for next Sunday. Then a good group of adults who decorated the church for the Christmas season and had a good time of fellowship with each other.

I went home last night encouraged, partially because I chose not to allow some negative things to break through my joy.

Here's hoping you will depend on the miracle this Christmas season rather than the myth.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Today is commonly referred to as "Black Friday" in the retail world as they stores hope to sell enough stuff to put them in the black for the year. It is a big day and understandably important for those who need to make a profit from selling stuff.

I prefer my profit margin. I was sitting here checking email and filling out my fantasy football lineup while watching and listening to my grandkids playing and conversing with my kids when it hit me. This is one of my profits in life. Time with family, expressing love, spending time together especially when I realize they all love the Lord. I would call that pretty profitable.

In the next couple of days I will add to my profits. We will play some more games, we will talk, we will laugh, I will get some hugs and kisses from the grandkids, we will talk about the future, we will tell stories of the past, we will eat, we will pray and we will generally and genuinely enjoy being with each other. That is a profit margin that the economy cannot take away.

So what do you consider profitable? What matter most to you? What are you communicating to those closest to you about your profit margins?

Here's hoping you have a profitable weekend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful for ...

This year I am thankful for many things ...

... Salvation
... Family and being with my kids and grandkids
... Friends, who I can count on
... My health, my recent back troubles have not been enjoyable but I am still able to do all my normal duties and I realize there are many people around me who are really suffering, my problems are minor in comparison
... My amazing wife, we celebrated 34 years of marriage in August
... Being a pastor, there are days that I am not so sure, but I know this is what I am called to and rejoice in the privilege to preach God's Word and share in so many people's lives
... My heritage, Christian parents, grandparents, great grandparents and uncles and aunts
... Coaching an amazing group of girls in volleyball
... The daily presence of God
... The opportunities all around me to show God's love to people
... Sleeping in a warm house with more than enough food
... There are many more things I could list, but it is after midnight and I will be making pancakes for the grandkids in a few short hours so I am off to bed. I am thankful for my comfortable bed as well

What are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day outside and another very good day inside. Outside the whole weekend was incredible for this late in November. Mid-5o's temperature, sunshine and a mile breeze, even with the leaves off the trees it was beautiful. The spirit in our time of worship was very good. We shared communion as a part of our worship and that was very meaningful. I asked the question "What will you do?" as my message. What will you do with what Christ has done for you? What will you do with all that Christ has provided for you?

In his book "Forgotten God", Franci Chan states, "Jesus suffered a grueling death so that I could have the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit. How dare I take this for granted?" What will you do with this gift?

Jesus went to the cross for you, he suffered for you, he forgave you, he rose again for you, he has provided all the tools you need to live this life and he has called you to a personal, exciting and loving relationship. What will you do with all of this?

We had some new people in attendance and a few who returned for the 2nd or 3rd time.

Sunday evening my class on parenting was a blast. They are a great group and we laughed a lot as we all shared some good, not so good and funny parenting experiences.

Here's hoping you have a great week of Thanks. Here's hoping that you recognize all that Christ has done for you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Homework ...

What is it about "homework" that is so difficult? Is it the word itself? Is it nightmarish memories of years gone by? Is it that I just don't want to have my routine at home interrupted? Is is that I don't like being told what to do?

I will keep my self analytical answers to myself for now.

I ask the question because I was given "homework" this week. Not from a teacher, but from a therapist. Before some of you say "it is about time" on the thought of me seeing a therapist understand that it was a physical therapist.

I began my physical therapy as prescribed by the doctor to try and rehab my aching back. I was very stiff and sore the next couple of days. I was also given some assignments to do at home. A series of stretches to do a couple of times a day. They are not really difficult but they are a pain in the back, literally.

I need to get into a routine for these assignments. Since I have only had 1 session with this therapist I don't know how he handles his patients regarding their assignments. Does he ask them immediately if they did all that he assigned them? Does he not ask at all? Does he ask as you leave? Does he scold if you didn't do everything, or does he pacify you with a heartfelt "that's okay, I am sure you will do better this week"?

I will find out tomorrow afternoon. I may let you know how it goes, if I didn't do well I might not. I haven't decided yet. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

(I actually did this Monday morning and somehow posted it on my family's Christmas list blog.)

Yesterday was a very different day. I spent Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday until early afternoon with 4 other guys I first met 36 years ago. When I arrived at college I had no idea that these 4 guys who were living in rooms just down the hall from me would still be a part of my life 36 years later. Not just a part of my life, but an important part of it. We got together with all of our families several years ago at a hotel for a weekend. It was a blast, then for the next several years we were not able to get together. The other 4 were able to get together a few times, but I was not able to make it. Then a couple of years ago 4 of us were at our college homecoming together and said we need to just schedule a time and get together. Less than a year later one of our group lost his wife after a 2 or 3 year battle with a brain tumor. The rest of us made plans to head up to the funeral, pay our respects and support our buddy. He asked us not to come at that time, because of the busyness and the crowd that would be there, he would rather get with us at a later time. So a year ago we all met at a lake cottage for a weekend. It was a great time. One that we all committed to doing again this year. We finally got our schedules in agreement and did it this past weekend. Plans are underway for next year.

We didn't do anything special, and yet everything we did was special. We talked, we ate, we laughed and then repeated those several times over the 43 hours we were together. I laughed till I cried, I was brought to tears as we shared with each other and I ate junk food like I was back in college.

I am impressed that we are all in contact, that we are all active in our churches, that there are no divorces among us, that we are all in different careers and still have so much in common, that we genuinely care for each other, that tears are welling up as I type this post, that we have all gone through so much and are more in love with Jesus than we were 36 years ago.

I am really humbled and honored to be a part of this group of godly men. I love being around them and love that we can laugh a lot and share deeply. It is my guess that a certain little restaurant near where we stayed is still talking about this crazy group of men who ate breakfast there 2 days in a row. Since we were not quiet and there was much laughter while we were there, and that we were at our table for a long time on both day. I am also fairly confident that the waitresses would love to have us back again often given the volume of the tip left and the positive way in which we treated our waitresses.

We left a mark at the restaurant, these men have left a mark in my life, hopefully I have left a mark in their lives. After all is said and done isn't that what we are called to do?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Position of Pain ...

I have been thinking about pain a lot recently. Mainly because I have felt it a lot recently. My back has been causing much pain for about 6 weeks, I got an MRI last week and found out I have several bulging discs and a couple of them are described as protruding and extruding "material". I guess that these are not good things. Next week I have an appointment with a Neurologist. As a result of that appointment I had to fill out several forms about my health and specifically my current back woes.

One of the questions was "The worst position for pain is: sitting, standing or walking." My answer was yes. You see I can't seem to find a position that is pain free. So I just keep doing what I need to do, because it doesn't feel any better in any specific position. If I am going to be in pain anyway I might as well just do normal stuff. So I coached my last month of the volleyball season as normal and haven't missed anything in my ministry either.

But I have been pondering that whole thing of the position of pain in my life. In other words what role, or position, does pain have in my life. I am aware from basic biology and physiology that pain serves a valuable role. It sends a signal that something is wrong, or at least something is not the way it has been under normal circumstances. We are not supposed to ignore pain, at least not until we know the reason for the pain. We normally begin to make some changes when we are in pain. We change positions seeking relief, we take medications seeking relief, we place ice or heat on the painful areas seeking relief and seek medical advice seeking relief. Generally our sole motivation in all these things is seeking relief from the pain. However, the medical people what to know why there is pain before they seek to provide relief options. To be honest when I am in pain my first thought is not why am I in pain, but how do I make it stop?

The reason for the pain is vitally important. Because we often can make changes to not just find relief but to remove the cause of the pain which brings lasting relief. But our first thought, at least my first thought, is just for relief.

Spiritually I believe that most of us have a much higher tolerance for pain than we do with physical pain. We are more willing to ignore spiritual pain than we are physical pain. We often just ignore spiritual pain and "learn to live with it" than we do with physical pain. But if we apply the same rules to our spiritual pain we should be seeking the answer to why we have the spiritual pain and then remove, or allow God to remove, the cause of the pain.

Why do we ignore our spiritual pain more often than our physical pain? This is a question rolling around in my heart at the moment. What are your thoughts?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Seems like these Monday morning posts are the only ones I get around to lately. My mind has been distracted a lot recently, with my back, finishing volleyball season and other random things.

Yesterday was another good day. Enjoyed a good time of worship. Our worship leader was gone and the guy who led did a great job. Illness kept a few from helping with the worship team but we still had good worship. My back was not doing well yesterday which meant I had to work really hard to stay focused on worship. Worship is a choice. What did you choice yesterday?

Had some new people yesterday and some who had been gone for a while returned. That is always encouraging. Our regulars are always late arriving so I had to a assure a new family that they indeed were on time and that others would stream in soon. They admitted that they wondered if they had the time wrong when they got inside and saw so few people. I am trying to keep smiling as I type this, but it is a struggle. How hard is it to get there on time? Sorry, I will not rant, I will not rant, I will not rant.

My message was on living an unbalanced life. Yes, I meant to type unbalanced. Acts 4:1-22 was the scripture. Peter and John caused quite a stir when they healed a man who had been crippled from birth. People were interested in what they had to say and many believed in Jesus as their savior. This upset some of the leaders who called Peter and John on the carpet, actually they put them in jail I guess a little more than being called on the carpet. (What does being called on the carpet even mean? There I go distracting myself again.) The leaders saw their courage, noticed that they were ordinary guys but that they had been with Jesus. What do people notice about you? Peter and John were not balanced. They were not trying to keep everything even and under control.

The point is that we need to surrender control to the Lord and being filled with the Holy Spirit be totally leaning on him and not in control ourselves. This led people to accusing the disciples of being unbalanced, what a great accusation. They gave up control to be led by the Spirit. This is the life we were called to live, not a balanced, even, passive life. But a passionate, spirit-led, life that is leaning completely on God. For too many of us we are seeking "just enough of God". That is a lousy way to live.

One writer called it "$3 worth of God". "I would like to buy $3 worth of God please - not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love a foreigner or pick beets with a migrant worker. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I'd like to buy $3 worth of God please." That is not the life we were created for and not the one we were called to live.

I want to be unbalanced for Christ, totally leaning on Him and under the control of His Holy Spirit. Not even, balanced and under my control. People are attracted to an a life under the leadership of the Holy Spirit not one in which I call the shots.

How balanced are you?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a very good day, even with a thorn in my flesh. The thorn was that my back was seemed to almost be back to normal flared up in a huge way over the weekend and made me miserable. (I am getting an MRI as soon as they can get me in for one.)

We had a tremendous sense of the Lord's presence in our service. People really engaged in worship throughout the service. There were people who went to the altar during the time of congregational singing, including someone from the worship team. I love that openness and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Our time of prayer was a powerful time. The message was on "Identity Crisis" from Galatians 2:20-21, Paul said in the midst of that "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."

I asked how do you answer the question of "Who are you?". How do you answer that question, how do you believe you are defined? To be courageous with our identity rather than in crisis with it requires that we give up our identity to Christ. We literally become crucified with Christ in order to be known through Christ rather than ourselves.

Is your identity still your own, or is it Christ in you? This must be revealed through our living, not just our words or bumper stickers. If it is just in our words and our living does not show Christ in us then we are in an identity crisis.

I am weary of this crisis, I want to be courageous with my identity. I want people to remember Jesus after they have an encounter with me, I don't care if they remember me. I want my living to reveal Christ, not me.

How about you?

Sunday evening we had an outstanding time of teaching and sharing in my class on parenting. Our switch to Sunday nights for our Sunday School ministry is showing great benefits. People who were not attending Sunday School before are attending and serving. Our children and youth numbers are up significantly, this was our main goal. Our overall number is up over the same period a year ago. I am very encouraged by the first 8 weeks of this new format.

Except for the back, it was a very good day.