Sunday, February 28, 2010

What a waste ...

God has really been speaking and ministering to me lately. It seems to have begun around the time I really committed myself to more, and more focused, prayer and more reading of the Bible. What do you think is there any correlation in this? Part of my prayer recently has been for a burden. Not a generic burden, but some specific, focused and real (flesh and bones of real people and real needs with names and faces) burdens. Well God has been faithful and he is answering my prayer. I must confess that this week I have wondered if isn't time for God to stop with the whole burden thing.

I am learning however that if we are interested God will answer the prayer and I am coming to understand that the only way the burdens will be lifted is by acting on them or ignoring them and running away from them. The first option (acting on the burdens) is not always attractive, at least not from the whole enjoyment and comfort desires that most of us live by. The second option (running away or ignoring) does not really bring relief and to be perfectly honest I have already exercised the second option multiple times and found it to be completely unfulfilling, from a making an impact in my community and world. I am just beginning to understand the value, and the cost, of the first option and I am sure I can say with certainty that unfulfilled will not be one of the feelings.

This afternoon as I sat at my computer to begin finalizing my less for my class tonight (don't even begin to act shocked that I am finishing it up less than 3 hours before I will be teaching) I began weeping. Not just a tear rolling down my cheek, but rather open sobbing with snot running. My cry to God was "I don't want to waste my life". The burdens I am praying for are becoming very real and nearly overwhelming, but I cannot go back and I don't want to go back to a burdenless existence.

So my cry today is that I don't want to waste my life. I don't know exactly what this means or where it will lead. But do know that I don't want to waste my life. I want to spend the rest of my life acting on these burdens. I don't want to just talk about them, though that is necessary at times, but I want to do something about them.

I don't want to come to the end of my life, whenever that may be, and have people say "What a waste!" I don't really care if I am completely understood (let's face it I have never been completely understood, but usually for different reasons), but I do care that people know that I am living what I claim to believe and am acting on the burdens God has laid on me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How Do You Respond?

I received upsetting news a few times today and I confess that for some of it I didn't know how to respond. Don't panic, I prayed and believe firmly in prayer. In fact I am more burdened for prayer than ever and am really having some great times of prayer. What I am talking about is how you physically react and respond to upsetting or difficult news. Do you let it all hang out immediately? Do you go stonefaced and stoic? Do you get agitated? Do you smile or laugh? Do you cry? Do you start creating your long term response strategy? Do you shrug it off? Do you pretend that it doesn't bother you?

I have probably done all of the above responses at one time or another. But, how do you respond? Maybe I want to know you should respond? Or, how I should respond? Today I think I responded, or reacted, in 3 different ways.

I guess I realized that I was pretty shook by each of the things as heard or discovered them. I know that there is no direct answer. I also know that I wish I wold responded differently today.

Never mind, I just needed to express myself on something that I had some control over.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heritage Has An Impact ...

Yesterday I participated in a very important process in my denomination. Every minister who is not yet ordained must go through a check-up interview every year. They meet with 4-6 ministers who have been through this and have some experience (some of us a lot of experience which means we are getting old). We ask them to review their spiritual journey to this point and tell us about their call to be a pastor. We then ask about some specific things in our beliefs and about how they are doing in their personal walk with the Lord, in their marriage (if married), and in their ministry. We review things that were suggested for them from the previous year.

This is not a comfortable process, but a very important one and a process that I believe in wholeheartedly. It is a great place for them to get a "wake up call" at times, or to know that they are not in this alone, and to encourage and reinforce their call.

It is a difficult place to sit on the side of the table I am now on, as one who questions, probes and evaluates the pastors still in the process of being ordained. I know that those on the other side of the table might find it hard to believe that my side of the table is difficult since they are the ones being questioned, probed and evaluated. I know, I remember and I watched my son go through this process for a few years. We had a scheduled call each year before his interview and after the interview. (The tone of those calls before were decidedly different from the calls after.)

I asked people in my church to be praying for me, the others on this board and those coming to be evaluated. No way do I want to do this process in my own power and understanding. I always come away from those times with a mixture of encouragement and burden.

One thing that really stood out to me in hearing the individuals tell of their spiritual journeys was the impact of their heritage. I mean the impact of the spiritual influence of their parent, grandparents, uncles, aunts and others who were in positions of influence in their lives. Some had to overcome the heritage they grew up with , while others were able to stand on the foundation of their heritage once they made a personal decision for Christ. Those who had to overcome their heritage were no less qualified, but they always made mention of it and of those to whom they now look for guidance. One even shared of being able to lead a parent to Christ in this past year. How awesome is that? Those who had a good Christian heritage always mentioned the power of that and how they are still being shaped by it. One even said that they never had to look for heroes in comics, the movies or sports world because Dad was their hero, spiritually, as a husband, father and worker in the church as a layman. How awesome is that?

The whole day I kept being reminded of the power of heritage. Not that someone without a Christian heritage cannot become a strong follower of Christ, but it is not as easy. Also, someone with a strong Christian heritage still has to make a personal decision for Christ and they do not have a special privilege but they do have much to lean on and stand on from those who have helped shape their lives.

What is your heritage?

What kind of a heritage are creating?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ... Early

I must leave before 5:30 in the morning to head to an all day meeting and will not get back home until about this time tomorrow evening. Therefore, I will do my musings tonight.

I was struggling with my own emotions today. I had to work really hard to drop some stuff from my mind as worship began today. The Lord really helped, otherwise I don't think I could have gotten through the message.

The time during the music went well, people were engaged on a couple of the songs. Our attendance was the lowest I can remember in a very long time, not really sure why. I began a new series of message today entitled "The Lies We Believe". It began in the Garden of Eden when the serpent lied to Eve and she believed it and acted on the lie. Adam then believed it and acted on the lie as well. I have been processing a statement I recently heard, "Behind every sin is a lie that is believed".

There are many lies that we have believed and acted on. "It's okay everyone is doing it." "If you loved me you would ..." "What harm could come from just trying it?" "Nothing bad can happen." "You deserve it." "You did something to cause this problem." "God doesn't really love you." "No one will ever find out." Just to name a few.

What lies are people around you believing?

In Titus 3, verses 3 through 8 we are reminded of the fact that we were deceived. The result of the deception was that we were enslaved, that we were hated and hated others. But the great contrast is shown in verses 4 & 5, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us ..." How awesome is that? The kindness and love of God appeared! What a contrast, deception and enslavement versus God's kindness and love.

God wants us to stress His love and kindress in all we do. What are you stressing in your life? What are you telling people? What are you living?

Friday, February 19, 2010

My time with a grandchild

Nearly 4 weeks I spent some great time with grandchild #3 (#3 in birth order, not importance). This past Christmas we gave our 4 oldest grandchildren a different kind of gift. Each of them received a card from us with a personalized message. Each of them were had a promise of some speical time and an event with either Grandpa or Grandma. A shopping day with Grandma, a fishing trip with Grandpa, 18 holes of golf with Grandpa or a Chuck E Cheese experience with Grandpa.

When the date was set for the Chuck E Cheese experience with Grandchild #3 I sent word of the approximate time I would arrive. When I arrived a couple of minutes early he was waiting for me with his coat on. I spoke with his parents for about 2 minutes and my son went and got the necessary booster seat. As he walked in with the seat my grandson said "let's go" and walked to the door. I told my son and daughter-in-law "I guess it is time to go".

The evening was awesome. We had a great time. I purchased a bunch of tokens and my grandson had a blast using them up as he played many games. I played a few, but it was his night, so I made sure I didn't use too many and that I got him a lot of tickets to redeem. We ordered pizza and he redeemed the tickets he had so far. We played some more games and then sat down to our pizza. My grandson is 6, but he is not reall big physically. He nonetheless ate 6 big pieces. I told him he didn't need to eat it all now, he could take some home. He ate it all, I don't think he wanted to run the risk of having to share with brothers or sister. He played some more and racked up a huge haul of tickets. Then as he used the last of the tokens we redeemed the tickets. He went straight for a big bag of Cotton Candy, he planned that one.

We loaded up his loot and headed home. As soon as we got in the car he said "And now for the Cotton Candy!" Remembering all the pizza and realizing I wanted my daughter in law to allow me near him in the future, I said "How about we save that and let Mom decide when you can eat it?" He reluctantly agreed. Moments later he mentioned that maybe he shouldn't have eaten so much pizza.

When he arrived home he showed off his loot and told about all the games. I am not sure but I think he was walking a little taller when he got back home. I absolutely love it and wondered why I hadn't thought of this type of present before now.

My most memorable moment of the night, (I am smiling and tearing up as I type this) came as we walked in to Chuck E Cheese. Remember the Christmas card stating the experience? Well, the exact wording was "This card entitles you to a special time with Grandpa at Chuck E Cheese." As we walked in my grandson tried to hand the girl at the desk something. I realized it was that Christmas card. He thought it literally was his ticket for this experience. He had kept it since Christmas and brought it with him. I told him I needed the card. It was a priceless moment and a picture I have seared into my memory. I have the card.

It was great, at least for me. The report I received from his parents was that he had a great time as well.

Here's to creating memories.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What If ...

What if we really prayed?

What would happen if we really prayed instead of just talking about it?

What if we really served others?

What would happen if we really served others instead of wishing someone else would?

What if we lived what we say we believe?

What would happen if we really lived it, instead of just talking about it?

What if ... ?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was an interesting day. I was gone from Monday mid-morning until the early hours of Saturday. So I was still scrambling getting settled, caught up and focused for Sunday. It seemed to me that everyone else had been gone for the week and was scrambling a bit as well, I know they had not been gone but there was a fair amount of scrambling taking place nonetheless. It seemed that the congregation was not as engaged as they have been recently. I don't know if it was the recent snow, the fact that it was Valentine's Day or what. We just seemed to be about a half step off in many areas, or maybe it was just me.

The message asked the question "What will you do with your keys?". In Matthew 16:19 Jesus said, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven". I believe that keys are for things with locks, if there are no locks you need no keys. Therefore, it seems that keys have to intended functions (we do a lot things with keys that they are not intended to do) to lock or to unlock. If we are locking the purpose is to keep something, or someone, in or to keep something, or someone, out. If we are unlocking the purpose is to open the way, to allow someone, or something, in or to allow someone, or something, out. Which of those purposes sounds more like God?

I asked what needs to be unlocked around you? I see a lot of people who need many things unlocked in their lives. We hold the keys for that through Jesus Christ. So what will do with your keys? Keys of no value if you don't use them. They were not created to be held, mounted or shown off. They were created to unlock or lock things. So, what will you do with your keys? When each of my children attained their driver's license and I handed them keys to the car they used the keys to unlock the car, start it and go somewhere. Not one of them said "Thanks Dad, and hid the keys, or just kept them in their pocket, or mounted them on the wall." No, they ran to the car, used the keys and went somewhere.

What will you do with your keys?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Valentine ...

Today is Valentine's Day, at least according to the calendar and Hallmark in cooperation with all florists and chocolate makers. It is a day marked, and advertised, for letting your special someone know how much you love them. I personally believe that this should happen every single day, but like me I am sure many people do not follow through on that belief. Therefore, we use this day as a day to make up for what we have failed to share enough in the past year.

My wife is awesome. She is way out of my league. I am a charter member of the "Married Way Over His Head League", in fact I am on the advisory board of this league. We have been married for 34 and 1/2 years. This has been a great 34+ years. Marked by many more highs than lows. The lows were nearly always my fault and the highs were nearly always her doing. I am a fortunate soul for sure.

My love for my wife is much deeper, higher and broader than I could ever express in a blog post, say in card, or display with gifts. I still try all of the previous methods to express my love for her but they always pale in comparison to who she is and how I feel about her.

She is my lover and my best friend. She is my greatest supporter, encourager and partner in ministry and life. She is the awesome mother of our 3 wonderful children. She is the great mother-in-law to our daughter and son-in-law whom we just consider our own children at this point. She is "that" grandma. You know the kind that the grandkids want to be around and who adores being around her grandkids.

She is fun and funny, even when she is not trying to be either. She makes me smile when just think of her. She makes my heart flutter when she speaks to me, or touches me. She is my valentine.

To my awesome wife, happy valentine's day. Also, happy every day that I get to spend with you. I love you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Real or Theory?

Another speaker made a statement today that I both agreed with wholeheartedly and questioned by believe about at the same time. The statement was "lost people are not a theory".

How many times have you heard "lost people matter to God, therefore they matter to me"? Great slogan, but is it reality? Do you live as if lost people are real and not just a slogan or theory?

How you live reveals whether you believe lost people are theory to you or real.

Lord help me to live every day, preach every sermon, serve every person with the reality of lost people motivating me. Help me to make sure that I don't slip back into living the theory instead of the reality.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Big Problem ...

This morning during my conference a speaker said "A great problem in the church is the perpetual immaturity of believers".

Do you see this where you are? After nearly 27 years of ministry I believe the statement to be true of most churches. If it were not true we would see more churches making a difference in their communities. We would see more churches reaching people with the compassion of Christ. We would see more churches really serving those around them. We would see more churches filled with people whose lives were being changed by Jesus Christ. We would see more churches filled. We would not see the fighting, fussing and feuding we see in too many churches and between too many churches. I could go on but I think you see why I believe the statement to be true.

The speaker also said that "one (sign) of immaturity is the fear of commitment". Do you see this where you are? I see it a lot. People fearful to commit to much of anything other than being served or pampered. People whose commitment could be summed up "I will unless something I prefer becomes available, or unless I am too tired or unless I just don't want to be around those people".

The truth of being a follower of Jesus Christ is that maturity and commitment matter. For you see there is no such thing as a part-time disciple. But I see many people who are attempting to live as part-time disciples.

Lord, keep guiding me to grow in my faith, my commitment and desire to serve.

Monday Morning Musings (on Wed.)

I am in southern California at a conference for a few days and made the trip on Monday, which prevented me from doing my musings on Monday. Yesterday was just busy with the conference, so here I go a couple of days late.

Sunday was a good day. There was a good spirit of anticipation as the service began, I love when that happens. It seems like that should be the norm. We had a good time of prayer during the service. The message was still in Matthew 16:13-20. This week focused on the power that God promised when we build on the rock of who He is, "the Christ, the son of the living God". Jesus said the church would be build on this and that all of Satan's power cannot stand up against us when we rely on this power.

The power of God is more than adequate for whatever we face, his power is enough all the time and is always on time. God's power is greater than the enemies, I John 4:4. We also need to recognize the purpose of the power. It is intended to used by you. So why do we so often feel as if it is not for us? God's power is intended to extend His church. Not ours, but His. It is not intended to pamper you and me. It is intended to be used against the enemy, not against other believers. It is intended to reach and rescue the lost.

Are you using God's power in your life? What are you doing with it? What is the evidence of His power in your life?

We had a good response at the altar at the end of the service. We had a lot of great conversations after the service and the attendance was good as well.

Here's hoping you are living in His power for His purposes.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a good day, but it felt very disjointed. The disjointed part was mostly just me and how I was feeling on Sunday. The whole week was out of the norm as far as my preparation was concerned. I was gone for a day and a half to attend a seminar. While I was gone for the seminar I had a great time fulfilling a Christmas present with grandchild #3 (more on that another day, it was so cool). Then there just seemed to be a lot of small interruptions that threw me off schedule for studying. Okay, enough about my disjointed feelings.

We had a good time of worship as we sang. I so appreciate the time that all of our people involved with all aspects of our music ministry put in and how they truly minister in worship. They don't just play, sing, lead, etc... they truly minister. They ministered and did so in such a way that we were ushered into a time of true worship. I am grateful for their ministry.

The message was again from the Matthew 16:13-20 passage of scripture. There will be at least one more from this section of scripture. This week was "What will you choose?". We have choices all the time in life, some large and some that don't appear as large. We choose whether to get up when the alarm goes off, we choose whether to set the alarm, we choose what to wear (or whether to wear what our spouse picked out for us) and many more choices each and every day. We also choose whether to accept Jesus as our Savior. We choose whether to believe His words and His Word. We choose what path we will follow in life. For the person who attempts to say that you choose not to choose, you need to realize that is a choice in itself. What you choose makes a big difference, while there may be two sides to every question which side you choose makes a big difference. After all, there are two sides to a sheet of flypaper (must be of a certain age to understand this one) and it makes a big difference to the fly which side he chooses.

The most important choice is who you will live. We must go beyond just nodding our heads in agreement, or raising our hands. We must go beyond verbal agreement, we must live our choices. Actually, how you live reveals your true choices in life. Casting Crowns has a song entitled "The Altar and the Door", that speaks to this issue of going beyond saying we agree and actually living what we claim. "...I cry, like so many times before. But my eyes are dry before I leave the floor, oh Lord. I try but this time, Jesus, ho can I be sure I will not lose my follow through between the altar and the door?"

So what have you chosen? Does your living match up to what you claim to believe?