Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday Musings ... on Tuesday

Once again I had a Monday slip by without posting my musings. Here goes on a Tuesday.

Sunday was a good day. We finally had enough snow to completely cover the grass. Winter has been different in our part of the world this year. We had some great discussion in my Sunday School class. Our small group on Sunday night was encouraging, fun and enlightening. I love that group of people.

Sunday was part 3 of the series "Yes Lord ...". We need to say Yes Lord regardless of the cost. The cost could safety. There are no guarantees with regard to physical safety. Look at Jesus. Look at the early disciples. Look at what is happening to followers of Christ today in many countries. Saying Yes Lord will cost you your convenience. This is a guarantee. If you are seeking a convenient faith, this is not it. Saying Yes Lord may cost you popularity. What matters more to you, being popular with the world or obedient to Christ? There can be many different cost to saying Yes Lord. So we need to say yes without even knowing the cost. You will not always know the cost of following Christ ahead of time. Can you do this?

The solution to our needing to say Yes Lord regardless of the cost is to kneel before the Father. In humility and recognizing who is in control. We are the servants, we are not the served. Too often we have gotten this one backwards in the American church. Part of the solution is to pray for strength. You are going to need it and your own strength will not be enough if you are really living in "Yes Lord ..." mode. The solution is to surrender yourself and your will. This might be the most difficult thing you will ever surrender. Have you given your will to Christ, or are you still trying to get him to do your will? The solution boils down to you saying yes to Christ, to his will and his way.

What has your answer been? What will you do from on? Is there something that is more than you are willing to give?

Our prayer needs to be "Father I am sick of living in between. Sick of being an up and down follower. I am weary of trying to do it on my own and in my own strength. I am tired of this mediocrity. I am sick of being halfway to where I ought to be in my relationship with you. I want to go further, I want to grow in intimacy with you. I want to quit struggling with small things. I want to quit holding onto things from the past. I want to live victorious and joyful."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Musings ...

Yesterday was week 2 in our series "Yes Lord ..." We were still in Matthew 9:27-31 and Ephesians 3:14-21. Asking the questions "Who do you believe in? and What/who are you saying yes to?"

The need we examined was what Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus. The need is for more power. There is a point in life where you realize you cannot do it in your own power alone. You need more power, not self acquired strength, but the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Another need is that we don't want to admit our need. Sometimes it is because of pride, or shame, or lack of knowledge, or poor examples or just feeling lost. Whatever the reasons, we don't like to admit our need. Another need we face is that of crisis. That point when you recognize your need, you realize your own inadequacy to meet the need and you are desperate for change.

The action needed is for you to humble yourself. Before God you kneel, either literally or figuratively to confess and request. A sign seen in a textile mill read, "When your thread becomes tangled, call the foreman." A young woman was new on the job. Her thread became tangled and she thought, I'll just straighten this out myself." She tried, but the situation only worsened. Finally she called the foreman. "I did the best I could," she said. "No you didn't. To do the best, you should have called me." We often fail to humble ourselves and call on Christ. We are not doing our best when it is just in our own strength and wisdom. The action is we need to cry out to God. Pray. Pray. Pray some more. This is not a casual 'let's get it over with' prayer. This is the humbled, broken prayer of admitting your need and desire for God and his power. John Flavel said, "They that know God will be humble and they that know themselves cannot be proud."

The results are that we are dependent on God. We cry out for his power, his cleansing, his filling and his power. Then we obey and leave the circumstances up to him. The result is you will be changed. In your spirit, in your attitude, in your vision and in your living there will be changes. If there is no change then something is missing. There must be a change. If you claim you don't need to change or live any differently then why did you need to cry out to God in the first place? Too often we cry out to God and ask him to change things without being willing to be changed. The result is a life surrendered to Christ. This surrender is not to your own desires, not to what our cultures expects, or to anything else but it is being surrendered to Christ and his will.

What is your crisis? What are you crying out for? How are you now living?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reflections on 2011 ...

some more good things from 2011:

We started small groups this year at church. The small group that my wife and I lead and host is a great group. They are all young adults and they put up with us. We have great times of study and discussion we also have great times of laughing and sharing while we eat together. We have between 10 and 22 attend. It is also cool to realize that all but a couple of them have begun attending in the 6 years we have been here.

Our oldest daughter was married this year. She is an wonderful follower of Christ and it was so great to watch her relationship with such a great guy. He loves the Lord. I know this because the first time we met him my wife said I have one question for you, "Do you love Jesus?". His answer was, and still is, yes. He is a great guy, my daughter really loves him and he loves her and treats her well. He is even learning to handle it when our whole clan gets together, which now that he has joined us is up to 15. The wedding was beautiful and fun, and the bride was even more beautiful. I have had the privilege to give away my two daughters to great young men, and to see my son marry a great young lady as well. I am a blessed man.

This year the Lord directed me in my study, and my preaching, to really focus on living out what I claim to believe. It has been some of the most challenging, and motivating, study and preaching I have ever done. There were many times that I was literally overwhelmed as I prepared to preach and a few times I was overwhelmed while trying to preach these messages. I am really excited by what God is leading me into this year.

This year something was added to my coaching volleyball. We had a team dinner nearly every week this season once we started playing real games. Sometimes we had a couple of them. Jody and I hosted most of them. Okay, Jody did most of the work but they were at our house so I figure I some credit, don't I? These turned out to be great times of bonding. Jody and I learned a lot listening to them tell stories on each other. I can honestly say that we love these girls. The dinners were actually the girl's idea, and it was a great one. Looking forward to do it again next season and even expanding it. In fact Jody and I miss them so much we are going to have a few dinners in the off season.

Jody and I were able to take a nearly 2 week vacation. A wonderful couple in our church allowed us to use their trailer. I helped him set it up at campground nearby. We had an awesome lot with plenty of shade that had a great view of the lake. We just 20 or 30 yards from the lake. We spent nearly the whole time reading, fishing, sleeping, occasionally playing card games or eating. We had several campfires at night. It was a wonderfully relaxing time and one of the highlights of the year.

We were able to have 4 of our grandkids for a week this summer. This was while their mom went to Ethiopia to bring back their newly adopted brother and their dad was working at a camp. Then we added the other 2 grandkids for 3 days. So for a few days we had 6 grandkids staying with us. It was great! They are, and were, great. I will admit we slept well the first couple of days after they went back to their parents, but we loved it.

What good things are you thankful for from 2011?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Monday Morning Musings ...

We had a very good day yesterday. We were back to full schedule and that added some energy to the building and the day. Had some good discussion in my Sunday School class and we had a great time in our small group last night. It had been 3 weeks since our small group met and it was great to be with them again, even though we were down in numbers, I love that group. Worship went well and I love the new song that was introduced and especially so because it matches the theme of the sermon series I began yesterday.

The new series is entitled "Yes Lord ..." The focus is on our belief and then living what we claim to believe in our everydays. The foundation scripture is Matthew 9:27-31 and Ephesians 3:14-21 and a bunch of others throughout the series. Augustine said, "Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe." I love this explanation, or definition, of faith by Philip Yancey, "Believing in advance in something that will only seem logical when seen in reverse." Look at the picture in the passage of Matthew 9:27-31. Two blind men following Jesus, asking for mercy from him. They would have had to really work to follow him, after all they were blind. They plea to him was for mercy, they understood who he was and what mattered most. Then when Jesus confronted them about their belief in him and his abilities they answered "Yes Lord". (thus the title of the series, and you thought I was creative)

The need seemed obvious, they were blind. They had more needs than just the obvious, as do people today. Theirs was a lack of physical vision, they had the spiritual vision. Today most of us are the opposite of these two men. We often don't see... needs, hurts and potential. God will meet needs, heal hurts and he has great plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "...plans to give you hope and a future". What are you seeing around you? What are you seeing in you? What aren't we seeing?

The request was for mercy. The implication may have been for the physical healing, but they requested mercy. Mercy is much bigger than any one need. Mercy is much broader than a single area. Mercy is something we all need. What are you asking for? Our requests tell a lot about our priorities.

The question Jesus asked was not "what do you want me to do for you?" His question was, "Do you believe I am able?" So do you believe he is able? This a key question and the answer is even more important. How are you answering this question? Not just with your words, but how are you answering it as evidenced by how you are living?

Do you believe he is able to provide for the burdens you are carrying today? Yes Lord needs to be more than a slogan, it needs to be more than the words in a song, it needs to be how we live.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Reflections on 2011 ...

I began some reflections on 2011 a couple of days ago with some good things, so I will list some not so good things as well.

Not so good things:

I didn't lose the weight I hoped to in 2011.

I am grieving with several families who lost loved ones this past year. Especially the Haines/Summersett families in the loss of Nicki. A 29 year old wife and mother of 2 little ones. She was one of my youngest daughter's best friends when I pastored in their town. She was a strong believer and is rejoicing with Jesus now. However, the human grief is difficult.

The bulging discs in my back didn't get better this year. However, I am learning to live with them and determined not to let it impact me if I can help it.

Our church grew, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. I am speaking of spiritual growth and numerical growth. The spiritual growth can be difficult to measure but there are ways. Don't get me wrong there was growth in the spiritual area, I would just like to see a lot more tangible results from the growth. In fact is there much spiritual growth if there is no tangible evidence?

Our community is still grieving and in limbo over 3 young brothers who disappeared more than a year ago. Praying for answers.

Grieving over some marriages that ended this year. My heart aches for the couples and for the children involved.

There are more good things to reflect on and I will share some more in the coming days.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Monday Musings ...

Yesterday was another very good day. It was cool to begin a new year in worship together with our church family. Many came and worshiped with us even though they had had a short than usual night. We also had a wedding in the evening of New Year's Eve, a first for me. We even had visitors on New Year's Day. There was a good spirit in the service and the congregation seemed to be very attentive and engaged with the message. I was battling as I preached, my back was killing me. I was sitting with an ice pack on it during worship until I got up to preach. I only had a couple of spasms while I was preaching. Got home and laid down and rested the back for a few hours then Jody and I went to a funeral home for visitation for the father of a man in our church.

Yesterday's message was in I Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath and focused on attacking our giants. We must focus on God first. David had such confidence in attacking Goliath because his focus was on God. He remembered how God had helped him in the past and he recognized that this battle belonged to the Lord. Focus on God first remembering that he is risen, he is living, he has called you and he will deliver you. You must also acknowledge your giants. Don't pretend you have none. Ignoring the giants doesn't make them go away, in fact it simply makes them bolder. You need to depend on the right power. Your own strength or stuff won't win. Look at David trying on King Saul's armor, it didn't fit and the power wasn't in the stuff but in the Savior. Pray for the power and for the ability to recognize the difference between self-reliance and confidence in God. You must use what God provides. Sometimes it is simple and we assume it can't be used of God. David didn't use Saul's armor, instead he got some stones and used the sling he already had in his possession. We often waste a lot of time and energy seeking what God has already provided. What do you already have that God wants you to use for his glory? You need to realize that when you attack your giants in God's strength others will be encouraged to attack their own giants. When David went after Goliath the rest of the Israelite army, who had been withdrawing in fear, charged forward and won a great victory. They did this after seeing David's faith and obedience.

Will you be David for your family, or church, this year? What giants are in your life? Are you going to attack them or continue to hide from them?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Reflections on 2011 ...

As the new year has begun I find myself doing some reflecting the year that just ended.

Good things:
Grandchild #7 arrived in July. A 5 year old boy that my son and daughter-in-law adopted from Ethiopia. He makes 5 for them, their house is full of joy, and sometimes noise. I am enjoying getting to know him.
A new son-in-law arrived in October. Our oldest daughter was married in October. It was a fun wedding with a beautiful bride. Very proud of her for doing it right and waiting for the one God had for her. I am blessed with 2 great sons-in-law and a great daughter-in-law.
Found out that grandchild #8 is on the way and she is scheduled to arrive in early February to our youngest daughter and son-in-law. She will be their 3rd. I feel the need to reveal that their son is fervently praying that the baby will be a boy. In the face of scientific evidence he said "but Jesus can change that if he wants to, can't he?". Gotta love that kind of faith.
My volleyball team had a very good season and after graduating 6 very good seniors last year no one outside of our team expected much from us this year. They were a real joy to coach.
We had a great outdoor baptism service with our church this summer. Great testimonies and wonderful time of fellowship with our picnic that followed.
A new prayer group started. The focus of this group is praying for our local schools. I am very encouraged by this group. One reason I am excited is that someone else asked to start the group. They approached my wife and asked if we would help get the group going.
Jody and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary this year. I love her more today than the day I married her.

I will add some more things in the next few days. Hope you some great things to reflect on from 2011.