Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ... on Tuesday

Had a great Holiday yesterday. Slept in a little, did a lot of yard work with my beautiful wife. Went to an open house for one of our graduates. Grilled some great hamburgers. Loved the sunshine. Didn't set foot in the church building. The only thing that would have made it better was if the grandkids and kids would have been here.

Sunday was a very good day, until the storms Sunday night. Our cable is still out, and some people's power is still out. Lots of trees down, but as far as I know no one in our community was hurt in the storm.

Sunday we enjoyed a very good time of singing during worship. Had a great time of discussion as we looked in the God's Word in my Sunday School class. Our attendance for worship was outstanding. The message stayed with the theme "It's Not Over", although this was the last sermon with that title. We examined Romans 5:1-8 and the big thought was that no matter what you are facing it's not over because you have hope. Verses 1 and 2, tell us that we can have hope in the glory of God. When was the last time you thought about the glory of God? About just how awesome and majestic God is? Given that God loves you and gave his son for you should give you hope. We are also supposed to rejoice in this hope. What made you rejoice this past week? In Philippians 4:4 we are told to "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" We can have hope in our sufferings, in fact we are to rejoice in them. That seems counterintuitive, to rejoice when we suffer. The hope we can have in suffering is in what that suffering produces. Verses 3-4 tells us that suffering produces perseverance in us, that perseverance produces character in us and the character produces hope. How do you think about your own sufferings? When was the last time you were hopeful in your suffering? I won't even bother to ask you when you last rejoiced in your suffering, because for 98% of us the answer would be not sure that I have done this. I am encouraged to hopeful when I read verse 5 and reminded that hope does not disappoint. Hope in the Lord never disappoints. When we are disappointed in something we hoped for, it was not from the Lord. Therefore, our hope must be in the Lord, not ourselves, others or circumstances. We can be hopeful in God, in his Word and will. We can ultimately be have hope in salvation through Jesus Christ. Verses 6 through 8 remind us that he loves us and gave himself for us. That is worthy of hope!

No matter what you are facing, no matter what you are fearing, no matter what you have endured, there is reason to hope. Jeremiah 29:11 encourages us through the words, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." So this week, if you are in any turmoil and are tempted to give up or think that it cannot, or will not change remember that you have hope!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was an even bigger contrast of very good and no so good than last Sunday. The very good was that it was graduation day for our local high school. This class had very special meaning for me as I had been involved with coaching 6 of them in volleyball all through high school. There were several others in this class that I had gotten to know fairly well. I am very proud of them, and though I will miss them when next season and school year begin, I am excited to see what the future holds for them. We have 4 from our church who are graduating this year and they are quality young persons who will do well and make a difference in the world. We had a great time with our small group last night. I really love that group. Our worship attendance continued the run of good numbers.

The not so good was my sermon, especially my delivery of the sermon. Wow, that may be the worst I have done in my 5 1/2 years here. To those who were in attendance and awake I apologize. I stayed with the theme of "It's Not Over", appropriate I thought given the prediction that the rapture was going to happen on Saturday and that it was the day we honored our high school graduates. We examined Matthew 17:1-8. This is where Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a mountain with him. Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared as well. Peter wanted to build shelters for them all and it would seem he wanted to stay on the mountain.

In realizing that we are not done with living or our call we looked at what this passage showed us about what we are created and called to do and what we are not created or called to do. We were not created to hide from the world. It is true that we need times of retreat and refreshment, but we are not to live our life in hiding from the evil world. Why would God want to remove the light from the world? We were not created to build shelters for Christ, or try to protect him. He doesn't need our protection. We were created and called to focus on Christ first and foremost. Verse 8 says "When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus." That is the way to live. Start with Christ. Focusing on Christ will lead us to the priorities of Christ. When we do anything else we will begin to focus on us instead of him. Where is your focus? We were created and called to spend time with Christ and have our thoughts on Christ. Jesus invited Peter, James and John to join him and he is still inviting us today. We were created and called to touch and teach the world for Christ. Verse 7 says "But Jesus came and touched them, 'Get up,' he said. 'Don't be afraid.'" In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus gave us the instructions that as we go in the world we are reach others, teaching them to obey all that Christ taught us. Our focus, our time and our thoughts are to be on Christ, which will lead us to reach the lost/world.

Where are you living? Is it where Christ as called you? Where is your focus? Is it on Christ and his will? Who are you touching? Who are you teaching? Is it beyond yourself and your holy huddle?

Here's hoping you do a better job of presenting Christ's truth to those around you this week than I did yesterday.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a mixture of good and not so good. The weather was terrible, rainy and the temperature dropped into the low 40's, it is the middle of May already. I was missing my wife who is taking care of grandchildren for a few days. My son and daughter in law got to see their son for the first time yesterday. They have their court date for the adoption tomorrow. Their first visit with him went well, I can't wait to meet him. We had a good attendance even though we were missing several mostly regular attenders. Their were a few who came to the altar in response to the message. Our small group was the lowest attendance we have ever had, but we had a great time talking and sharing. So you can see, it was a good and not so good day.

I continued the theme we began on Easter of "It's Not Over". We looked at Romans 7:1-6. There is a statue of Christopher Columbus in Spain. One of the unique features of the statue is a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain's motto for centuries. The motto had been "Ne Plus Ultra", which means "No More Beyond" because they thought they had reached the ends of the earth. The Lion is tearing away the word "Ne" or "No" so that it then read "...More Beyond". That holds true for our walk with Christ, there is more beyond wherever we are today.

In taking the next steps to go beyond where we are we need to die to sin. Die to it's habits and rules. These will hold you hostage when you don't choose to die to them. Death releases you from all of this, that is only logical but so often live as if still tied to it. We die to our self and sin so that we can belong to another, Jesus Christ. You cannot belong to another (Christ) while you are still living with someone else. Too often we try to embrace Christ and all that he has for us without letting go of our sin and our past. We try to live a new life without dying to the old life. In this death we find freedom, freedom truly comes in the release from sin. This then allows us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. There is no room for the Holy Spirit in a life that is filled with sin and self. This death to sin and self allows us to live as Christ. If we have chosen to follow Christ that means we have chosen to live like him. That means we must die to living life our way. Is your living modeled after Christ? This must be more than joining the club. In joining a club we usually only live for the club when the club meets, not all of the time. In following Christ we must live for him all the time, it must become who we are, not what we join.

To whom do you belong? What are you embracing? Are you trying to hold onto something in addition to Christ?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

The end of my college time began to come into focus and that created a choice for Jody and I. It involved a major choice for us, … the choice was to continue at the pace I was on and finish 2 more years or really load up on hours and finish in 1 more year. Complicating the decision was the fact that I was working full time, 4-12 Monday through Thursday and 8-4 on Saturdays and we had a 1 year old son. I had been taking classes 4 years and had sat out one year when our son was born. I had been taking a full load, but the minimum for full time (12 or 13 hours) and had changed majors once.

After much talking, calculating and praying we made the decision to go for and try to finish in a year. So, that summer I took 8 or 10 hours I can’t remember for sure. Then in the fall I took 17 ½ hours, then I took 6 hours during January term (does anybody remember those?) and then in the spring I did my student teaching plus some other required teaching class. I am tired just typing this and remembering. I was a lot younger then and we made it. It was a strain physically between the classes, the studying and working 40 hours a week. It was a strain spiritually because of the fatigue and I wasn’t always wise in taking the time I needed for my relationship with Christ. It was a strain on our marriage as you can imagine for all the things I have already mentioned. We made it a priority to take advantage of any free time that I did have to spend it together. At times it was as a family and we made sure we had a few times that were just Jody and I.

It was a long, tough year but I still think back to that year often. I grew a lot that year. To pull it off, and to reach the goal of graduating college was tremendous. Then to know that I was doing this for my son as well added to feeling of accomplishment. Jody and I took some time, talked it out, prayed and agreed to go for it knowing it would not be easy made the completion of the goal all that much sweeter.

I don’t remember anything that was said at my graduation except that they called my name. shook my hand, congratulated me and gave me the evidence that I was a college graduate. It was great to know that Jody and I did it together, I got the degree but she was just as much a part of it as I was and I have never taken that for granted. It was also great that my parents could be there for that moment. I am sure that there were times when they doubted that I would ever get this far, especially during some trying high school times. My Dad was smiling proudly and my Mom was smiling and crying proudly as well. My son didn’t have a clue what was going on, but he did know that everyone sure seemed to be happy.

The goal was reached, I was a college graduate. Now what? I began the process of trying to find a teaching job and that led to …

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

Change seems to be the norm for us and change was soon in the air again. This time it involved …
Job changes for both Jody and I. She went to work at the college in an office. We found a good place for T. (our son) to go when I was in class or working. She really enjoyed this new job. I went from my job as a night time school custodian to working as a supervisor at a juvenile detention facility. My job was a lot closer, so less miles to drive and it involved working with youth. At about this time we also got a different place to live. We found a nice 2 bedroom townhouse apartment near the college. This was a very nice change from our 3 ½ room duplex and we were able to get away from the roaches also. Although we soon discover we had exchanged one critter for another, this time it was mice. But the apartment brought in an exterminator and helped with the problem. In the meantime I became quite proficient at setting and emptying mouse traps.

My job was working with teens that were in trouble with the law and were sentenced to our facility. It was a lock-up facility that came with barbed wire topped fencing around the yard. This was one of the best things that happened to me in preparation for becoming a teacher and then later a pastor. It helped me to look past the surface a person and to see behind the curtain of who they really were and what had contributed to them being who they were and how they were acting. I came to the conclusion that a lot of people shouldn’t be parents and in fact I thought maybe people should have to pass a test before they would be allowed to have any children.

I saw parents tell kids that they were no longer their children. I saw parents take a swing at their own kids in front of supervisors. I saw parents dump all of their kids belongings on the steps of our facility. I saw the hurt in the eyes of some tough kids when these things happened. I saw that some tough kids weren’t so tough after all. I talked with kids who thought it was okay that their dad beat them up. I saw kids who believed their parents didn’t love them or care about them. When I first started the job I had trouble sleeping because of all that I saw and heard. My I eyes are filling with tears as I type this remembering some of those faces and situations.

Wow, I wasn’t quite ready for the emotions that just hit as I recounted that time. In many ways that job has shaped much of my life. I was a teacher and a coach (still doing that one), I was a youth pastor, I taught and coached at a college and I am now a senior pastor but am still working with teens. In my 28 years of ministry I have coached kids or teens for at least half of those years and as a senior pastor I have done some youth ministry several times over those years. That job at the juvenile detention facility has continued to motivate me to look beyond the first impression, especially of kids and teens. I pray that I am able to communicate to the teens at my church and the girls in my volleyball program that I really care about them. That no matter what else is happening in their lives they have someone who cares, who prays for them and will listen to them no matter what. I don’t think I do a very good job of that communication at times, but I keep working at it because they are worth it.

The end of my college time began to come into focus and that created a choice for Jody and I. It involved a major choice for us, …

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ... on Tuesday

Sunday was a good day. I got to celebrate another Mother's Day with my awesome wife, my youngest and her two beautiful kids were with us as well. Any day with the grandkids is a very good day. We were missing a lot of people on Sunday. We were even missing our drummer who was there to practice but got a fire call before the service started, such is the risk with volunteer fire personnel. One of our teens sang a special in song, love seeing them serving. Our attendance was not bad considering all who were gone and we had some who were back since visiting on Easter.

I continued the theme "It's Not Over" that began on Easter. That title is especially appropriate for Mother's Day. Mothers are still mom no how old the children become or how long the distance may be between them.

We looked at Ruth 1:1-18 and the message had application for moms but was for all of us in the example of Naomi and Ruth. There are 3 key areas that we see here in the example and that is the heart, the head and the hands. The heart is obvious in verses 9-10 and 14. The heart embraces, there is a holding on and clinging to that is desperate. There is a I won't let go of what we embrace. What are you embracing today? The heart sees the potential in someone or something. This is where "yes you can" lives. The head evaluates, see verses 11-14. An evaluation of the good and the potential harm, the evaluation can be difficult at times because of the overwhelming care that is felt for a person or project. The head chooses the path to take. There must be a combining of the head and heart, otherwise our choices will ride the roller coaster of emotions that crashes regularly. Without the heart involved in the choices we will ignore the concerns of others. In these choices prayer must be a regular choice as we embrace and evaluate. The hands represent the act, the doing, literally the living it out, you can see this clearly in verses 16-18. I don't remember my mom's thoughts, but I remember many of her actions. People will not remember you for your thoughts but for your actions. We need to think as we act but if all we do is think and plan we will have no impact on people. Too often we think it but never do it. Too often we feel it but don't move on it. I am broken lately by our lack of action. Our actions reveal our true thoughts and feelings. Words are powerful, but words without action are nothing more than a novel. They might make a great read but there is no lasting impact or change.

What are you embracing/feeling? What are your plans? What will you do?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Random Thoughts ...

I woke up early this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. So I came out to the family room, prayed for several people, started the coffee, fired up the computer and now I have Mike and Mike on for my listening pleasure as well.

*I am hopeful that we have finally turned the corner and spring is here. There is just something wrong with having your heat on in May and people bundling up to mow their lawn.

*I am burdened to see the church be the church in working together to reach the lost and care for people.

*I don't think I have ever had a period of ministry as confusing as this time.

*I am blessed in more ways than I can possibly list, but I will list some...My beautiful wife of over 35 years...Children who are passionately serving the Lord and helping people...I have a place to sleep, clothes to wear, food to eat and a care to drive...6 (soon to be 7) grandchildren who bring me great joy...I get to coach some of the greatest high school girls around...I am forgiven...Grace is grace...I get to preach God's Word every week...I have a great heritage...

*I don't understand people who claim to be followers of Christ but don't serve.

*What's up with baseball this year? Cleveland and Kansas City lead their division, Jeter can't hit, the Dodgers can't make payroll, and Liriano throws a no hitter with a 9+ E.R.A.?

*I am desperate to see people passionate about following Christ.

*I am weary of casual Christians. In fact I believe the term "casual Christian" is an oxymoron.

*I love good coffee.

*I hear birds singing this morning, the sun is shining and I really hope I can turn off the furnace today.

*I need to get moving into the day.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Love Story continued ...

He was growing, we were learning and things were going well. So of course that meant it was time to shake things up. So we …moved 3 states away. We didn’t do this just to shake things up. The schools around us were not going to recognize more than one semester worth of my hours. That would mean adding 1 year to my college time and by working full time I was already taking a little slower path to graduation. So we moved. The thought was that I would graduate with my education degree and then go to Seminary for a Masters degree in some type of ministry. Jody’s brother and his family had moved to work at the MNU (at that time it was MANC) the previous year. So we moved out there and actually moved her parents out at the same time. I drove the truck loaded with our meager possessions and all of her parents stuff. She and her sister drove their parents big Buick and had our son as well and off we went.

On the way the truck broke down. So U-Haul repaired it, but it added at least 3 hours to our trip so we stopped and got a couple of motel rooms. The next morning we took off and got into our new community the next afternoon. We unloaded our stuff into a little duplex that we rented sight unseen. Jody’s brother and sister in law found it for us and it fit our financial situation. There were 2 small bedrooms, a bathroom and a combined kitchen/living room. We soon discovered that we had freeloaders as well in the form of thousands of roaches. Home sweet home. We bombed the uninvited roaches out, but we battled them the whole time we lived there. I enrolled in a full load at college, got a job as night time school custodian at an elementary school and we were living the dream. Jody began to watch a couple of other children which kept her at home with our son and added a little extra money.

Our first Christmas in our new place was probably the most depressing and one of the most memorable of our lives. At Thanksgiving we drove back to my parents and had a great time with the exception that the heater in our car went out. With a 7 month baby in the car that is a real problem. So we drove back in my Mom’s car while my Dad tried to get our heater fixed. The idea was that they would bring our car to us at Christmas and drive theirs back home. The problem was that about an hour into my parents trip out to see us at Christmas the heater went out again. Then on Christmas Eve the little wall space heater in our duplex went out. Then to top it off, we were flat broke. We bought our son 1 present for Christmas, not he noticed or remembered but it was devastating to me. We didn’t have any money to get each other a present either, we each had something vital that we needed at that time and had to purchase so we called those a present trying to fool ourselves. My parents brought some presents and Jody’s family gave some presents, but it was a tough Christmas emotionally for this young husband and father.

As tough as that Christmas was it was also a great lesson in what really matters. Keeping Christ front and center, family and helping others are what Christmas is all about. We eventually got the heater in the car fixed. My Dad got the landlord to get our space heater fixed before Christmas morning (hey, don’t mess with grandparents who see a grandchild who might suffer). We had a nice visit with my parents, we had a good time with Jody’s family and our son enjoyed the present we got him.

Change seems to be the norm for us and change was soon in the air again. This time it involved...

Monday, May 02, 2011

Monday Musings ...

Yesterday was a very interesting day. I realized toward the end of last week that I seem to struggle with my message every year the Sunday after Easter and I kept that tradition going this year. As expected our attendance was below Easter Sunday, but it was a reasonable number. We did have a few visitors from Easter Sunday return to worship with us, that is always encouraging. We had a very good number of teens in worship again this week, that really encourages me.

The message was once again entitled "It's Not Over", it actually looks like this is developing into a series of messages. There was a song that was popular some years ago that had a line it that said, "this is the song that never ends" (sing along if you would like). It is possible that this is the sermon that (almost) never ends. We looked at Acts 1:7-11 and Acts 2. When Jesus rose from the grave he spent a few weeks with the disciples and other followers and this is at the end of that time. He reminded his disciples that the mission is not over, he gave them a game plan and then he was taken from them, this time by the Father. The appropriate question, then and now, is "Now What?".

In answering this question, the first point from this passage is Don't Just Stand There. Verse 11 of Acts 1 the disciples were asked, "why do you stand here looking into the sky?". Jesus went up in the clouds and the disciples were just standing there looking up. Remember that Jesus had just given them some marching orders that matched the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20. Instead of getting to work on the call of Christ, they were just standing there looking up. It seems to me that too many of us are standing around. That is not what we have been called to do. Then we need to get the power. Not our own power, that is never enough for the mission Christ has given us. We need the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ promised. We need to surrender ourselves completely, give God permission to cleanse anything and everything that is not following his will and be filled with the Holy Spirit. We need to do God's will. This will is the same for all of us in the big picture, see the Great Commission. However we all have different parts of service in fulfilling this call. One body, but many parts. Lastly, we are do it boldly. Look at the disciples after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit. They did not live passively, they lived with compassionate boldness. We cannot do this in our own power and we cannot do this if we only clump together with others who believe and look like us.

What are you doing? Whose power are you living in? What will you do now? It's not over, so let's get to it!