Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ...

Wow and ouch! That is a simple description of yesterday. God showed up in a powerful way and several people responded by making commitments, releasing burdens and seeking forgiveness at the altar. We ran out of room around the altar, how cool is that? There were teenagers, senior citizens and few in between. There were a few who came forward and when I saw them respond I just said, "Wow!". There was a pretty good spirit throughout the service. The children who regularly attend our Sunday morning children's church sang a special song during worship. That is always a highlight. Seeing some of them belt out the song with enthusiasm and some stand there like deer caught in headlights was a great. Nearly half of the children were not attending our church at this time last year.

The message was from Matthew 16:13-20, it was last week and will be again this Sunday as well. Last week dealt with the questions that need to be answered, this week focused on the right answer and the results it produces. When asked "Who do you say I am?", Peter answered "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." This answer provides an intimacy with God, He is not aloof but knows you by name and knows your needs. It provides a renewed identity, if you have accepted this answer personally. You can be who God created you to be and do what He created you to do. Not limited by your past, but renewed in this relationship. You will have all the power you need to do His will. You will have the power to rescue those who are still captives. Hell is afraid of active believers who are working in the harvest. The right answer gives you the keys to build His church. The church is not supposed to be weak. The church is not supposed to be stagnant. The church is supposed to be alive, growing spiritually and numerically. Why are we so willing to be satisfied when we and our church are weak, or stagnant or not growing? We need to move beyond having the form of the church and make sure we are functioning as His church.

The ouch was the realization of how many people seem to be just watching the show. The ouch is also from realizing that as God moves things get messy, but I would rather be in the the mess created from working in the harvest than the mess created by sitting still. There will be a mess, which one will you choose?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time ...

How much time have you spent this week on what you claim matters most to you?

This question has been ringing my mind this week. The question is prompted by two things, a funeral and a lesson I will be teaching tonight. The funeral was last Saturday. I shared in the funeral of a great guy who had a major influence on me during some turbulent years of my youth. His name was Charlie. He was a leader in the church we attended and that my dad happened to be pastoring at the time. (That probably was a major influence on our attending that church.) Charlie was not a youth leader, he was not a young man at that time, but he influenced me in powerful ways. For one, Charlie showed interest in me. That wasn't easy given my attitude during most our years in this church. Charlie was positive most of the time, he had one of those smiles that could irritate you and cause you to smile along all at the same time. One of the most amazing things Charlie did was slap me on the back and encourage me. Sometimes it was a brief thing in passing and sometimes it was more in depth. But I always noticed. I knew he cared, even though he knew I wasn't doing a lot of things well at the time. He never shied away from me. I noticed. I also watched how he lived and what mattered to him. He had a saying that was brought up at his funeral. The saying was that "his feet would be parked under his family's table at night". Simple, but powerful as far as statements go. You see it determined which jobs he took and which ones he turned down. He grew up without a family and he was committed to be the husband and father that God wanted him to be for his family. He spent time doing what mattered most to him. His faith and his family were at the top of his priority list. So I have been thinking about where my time is invested.

The other influence on the opening question is the lesson I will be teaching tonight. On Sunday evenings I am teaching a study on marriage relationships. Tonight's lesson is about conversation and time. So I have been asking, where is my time being spent.

How would you answer that question? Where did your time go this past week? Where we invest our time says a lot about what matters most to us.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another very good day. There was a very good spirit in the service right from the beginning. We took some time to bring updates from Haiti and took a special offering for the Haiti relief. I was thrilled with what received in that offering, especially considering most people did not know we were taking an offering for Haiti before they arrived. I was blessed by the generous spirit of our people and anticipate more coming in the next couple of weeks. My wife was filling in as the worship leader this week, she was very nervous but allowed God to minister through her during the music.

The message continued the theme of ministering to the needs of those around us. We examined Matthew 16:13-20, where Jesus asked his disciples who others were saying he was and then asked the big one, "Who do you say I am?" I believe your answer to that question is the most important answer you will ever give and the most important answer you will ever live. Because we are not to be only about sterile knowledge, but about living out (applying) what we know. There are too many of us who claim we know, but we do not show that we know by how we live. To work in the harvest we must answer some questions about the harvest. "What are the people saying?" Do you know, are you listening to the people around you? "Who are they following?" Are you watching and noticing who those around you are following? You also need to figure some things out about yourself. Your compassion for the harvest has to be personal or it will have no impact. You must be aware of where you are, we need a better spiritual GPS. You must live in God's presence, in his Word and in the center of his Will. This is the only way you can come up with the right answers, do the the right things and be in the right places. This means to be in the harvest, living out what we know God desires of us.

Are you in the harvest? Do you believe in the call of God for you to be in the harvest?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a good day. It was cold, but it is the middle of January and we always have cold in January so that shouldn't have impacted anything but it looked like it had an impact. I was really battling some distractions during the worship service and had to fight hard against them. Our time of music was a good time of worship and the spirit was good in the place. We had a good time of prayer. As a church we celebrated my Associate's son's birthday and he got a couple of cool presents from the church.

The message followed up last Sunday's sermon from Matthew 9:35-38. Last Sunday focused on the first 3 verses and asked "Do you feel it?" This week the same question applied and I added "What do you see?" The observations from verses 37 and 38 were powerful. Jesus told his disciples that the harvest is plentiful. I did a word study on this phrase and discovered that it means "the harvest is plentiful". The fact is there are needs all around us. There are people living without Christ as their Shepherd and Savior. We don't have to search to find the harvest it is plentiful. The second observation is that the workers are few. There is way more harvest than willing workers. This requires seeing the harvest and being in the harvest. Too many who claim to follow Christ either don't see the harvest or they will not get into the fields of the harvest. We do not need more harvest observers or critics, we have plenty of those. The third observation is that we are to pray for the workers. The call has already gone out to the workers, those who follow Christ, they have to answer the call. The last observation actually is in the beginning of chapter 10 and that is that the first workers were those Christ asked to pray for workers. Too often many of us are willing to pray for workers we are just not willing to be one of those workers.

So, what are you seeing? What are you praying for? Where are you going?

We have not been called to stay in the barn, but to go into the harvest and Jesus will provide for us while we are in the harvest. The problem is not a lack of harvest potential, it is a lack of willing workers in the harvest.

I am teaching a study on marriage relationship and last night we had a great time together. It is a fun group and the study is vital. There are those who have been married over 30 years and those who have been married 2 or 3 years in the group. The dynamics are so great in the group given the variety of ages and backgrounds. Really looking forward to this study.

Here's hoping you see the harvest and that you see it up close and personal.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

What Makes You Smile?

A smile brust on my face this afternoon at a time that would have surprised most anyone who would have been watching me at the time. I don't know why anyone would have been watching me as I waked in and out of my office, but you get the point. (Or maybe you don't.) There was nothing special happening, no one else was in the office, I was listening to a basketball game that did not involve any team that I really care about, in other words nothing was happening. So what brought the big smile to my face? Simple, I looked a couple of pictures of my grandkids. They are great grandkids and the pictures are great. In fact I am smiling now as I type this and I am at home instead of in my office. The smile is the thought of my grandkids and the memory of the pcitures.

This sequence of nothing happening, to seeing a couple of still photos to big smile got me thinking. What brings a smile to my face? Then I began to wonder what makes me smile? What makes other ssmile? What makes you smile?

I thought of the things that had brought a smile to my face during this day. My wife brought a smile to my face as she smiled at me. That is a constant that is a daily blessing in my life. Typing my report for my upcoming board meeting prompted a smile. Before you start to think that I have lost my mind realize that December was a great month in the life and ministry of our church, so as I recounted many things from the past month I smiled. Visiting with a man in the nursing home and hearing him say that everything is good between him and the Lord brought a smile to my face. Receiving a text from my daughter telling me of her successful completion of a half marathon today. (She is running a full marathon tomorrow, that thought actually made me grimace.) These are just few things that made me smile today.

What brought a smile to your face today? There are enough things in each day that make us frown, or worse, so let's focus some attention on the things that bring a smile, or at least what should bring a smile. (Hint: like reading this blog!)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a very good day, even though I didn't do well myself. First worship of the new year and it was an interesting morning for sure. Music went well and the Spirit was noticeable throughout the service. Do you think the extra prayer for the service had any impact? Yes, that's what I think as well. Even with all of that there were a lot of distractions. We lost our ability to record our services about a year ago and so far no one has figured out the problem. I was particularly burdened for the service and message and wanted to have it recorded. So I ran around trying to find a boom box, or anything, that I could even set up in front of a speaker and do a manual recording. I tested 4 around the church none would record. I ran to our local Dollar General store and the only portable player they sold did not record. I went home and brought our nice tabletop unit, speakers and all, and it would not record. So there was no recording. Might have been for the best given that our sound system went ballistic during my message. It worked fine throughout the service but did some loud bursts of static noise while I was preaching. The second time it happened I just unplugged the whole system and spoke loud for the rest of the service.

As I wrote in my previous post I was extra burdened for this message. I had wrestled for a couple of weeks over this message and then the Lord redirected me on Friday. God's redirection was definitely the way we needed to go and it only increased the burden I felt. The message was from Matthew 9:35-38 and asked the question "Do you feel it?" There is a difference between feelings and feeling it. Jesus "had compassion" or "was moved to compassion" for the people in the towns and villages. In the Greek this is one word, that most literally means "to be moved as to one's inwards (bowels), to be moved with compassion or to yearn or beg with compassion". In other words Jesus really felt it in his gut. A deeply felt and moving (no pun intended) act. Also, Jesus described the people as "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd". Harassed and helpless was actually describing a violent act, not a passive observation. I then reread verse 36 this way, "When he saw the crowds, he was hit in the gut and deeply moved, because the people were molested and pinned down, like sheep without a shepherd." Does that change your reaction to the verse? It does for me.

When was the last time you were bent over in discomfort for the needs of people around you? When was the last time your breathe was taken away by the needs of the people you encounter?

Feelings come and go, even feelings of compassion. We change the channel and think of something else. We look the other way and don't dwell on the needs we see if it is just feelings. But when it is felt, things change. When it is felt a change of behavior follows. Notice also, that Jesus asked his disciples to pray for more workers and then in chapter 10 sent those same disciples out to do the work of the gospel. Too often we "mature believers" hear a plea to pray for workers and we add it to our list, but rarely grab our coat and go to work.

To make sure that the needs around us are felt requires prayer, surrender, a willingness to really look and be moved by what we see and a change of attitude.

What do you feel? What will you do?

In spite of all the distractions and in spite of my failings (or was it because of my failings) God moved and people responded. Some came to the altar, some asked further questions and some emailed responses.

So what will you do?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

I Failed ...

I failed this morning. When it was time to preach the message I failed, fortunately God didn't fail. He came through big time. I was very burdened for the message this morning. I had been overwhelmed as I sensed God's direction this week. He redirected me on Thursday and Friday, after I thought I was nearly finished with the message. That is always exciting and usually creates a large burden, this one was larger than normal. I wanted so much to communicate the burden and direction of the message that I was literally overwhelmed as I prayed and prepared the past couple of days. Then this morning came and the burden increased, and as I saw people arriving it increased even more.

I will write more about the service and the message in my Monday Morning Musings, but I certainly felt that I failed. But God didn't fail, he never does. He showed up in a big way and did what I couldn't do even it had done well. I love it when that happens.