Archive for June, 2012

June 15, 2012

last one before Cuba

by pastortimfowler

One week from today is when I head to Cuba for my mission trip. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be going back and how appreciative I am to all who helped to make it possible. Over the past few months my church and my friends have helped me to raise the money needed to go and with my personal obligations added to it, it has provided all of the expenses of the trip. THANKS!!!
We leave next Friday and I am taking the week off before I go to tie up loose ends and spend a little time with my wife. Because of this I will probably not do any more blogs until I return. Once back, I hope to share some amazing stuff about my trip. There is so much that I hope that will happen that I may need the whole week when I return to tell everything. But until then, this is it.
So here are some things that you can do while I am not blogging.
1. Go back and read my blogs that have made you mad in the past. This will give you a chance to see if you were just having a bad day. It will also let you reconsider why you may have disagreed with me. I am sure that I was right and you were either having a bad day or need to change your mind.
2. Go back and post something nice in response to my blogs that you originally ripped me apart on. I don’t expect you to apologize, but you can at least say nice things, especially since I am going out of country. Those of you who write mean responses to my blogs probably do it out of frustration because you know that I am right and this will give you a chance to say that.
3. Go back and read my blogs that you liked and write another raving review. Maybe you liked my blog so much that it left you speechless the first time and now you have had time to think of something wonderful to say about my blog and/or me.
4. Send my blogs out to everyone that you think will enjoy reading them. I like having people follow my blogs. For a long time I blogged to myself and although I always thought they were brilliant, I finally got tired of writing the blog and the response.
5. Send my blogs out to everyone that you think will despise reading them. I enjoy those of you who get irritated almost as much as I enjoy the positive ones. By sending them stuff that irritates them, I am sure they will look for me when I get back with a sense of excitement as they can’t wait to tell me welcome home.
Finally, while I am gone, you can pray for my safe travels and that God is able to use me to help the folks of Cuba. No matter how much I know I irritate some of you, I still appreciate your reading my blogs. I love the positive feedback and the negative and I don’t take anything too seriously. But I do know the power of prayer and no matter who you are, I will accept your prayers and appreciate them. I look forward to my trip and even more to getting back to the greatest people in the greatest country in the world.
Thanks for all of your support, and God bless you all.

June 13, 2012

Filipino Jesus

by pastortimfowler

Bibles Purchased by The Body

My friend from the Philippines is going to try to come to the states in a couple of weeks. He has to come here every few years to try to raise money for his ministry. He starts churches in his area and then trains leaders how to keep the church functioning. This is his full-time calling and it is quite demanding. In the Philippines it is difficult to fund such a ministry and that is why he comes here. Churches here are rich in comparison. He is looking to get monthly commitments from local churches for a total of $500 per month. It doesn’t sound like much, but he can make things go a long way. I would love to see that amount be at least doubled.
This is a guy who sacrifices a lot to see that his people hear about Jesus. If you are reading this and you are not a believer, don’t tune me out. Preaching Jesus is not as narrow as many want to make it. Jesus taught that people that we should love each other and give to help others. He taught that when even strangers are in need that we should help them. Jesus taught that it is important to work and plan and save for tough times. He taught that we should be more concerned with others well-being than our own comfort. I don’t care what your beliefs are, that is pretty noble, and that is what my friend does day in and day out.
I did not mention that he will be here for several months. He is leaving his wife and kids behind so that he can help others. As I prepare to go to Cuba next week for only 7 days, I am having some concerns about my wife being here without me. I have been in the Navy and experienced extended separations and it is never easy. But to choose to do it so that you can help people who you barely know is quite amazing.
Antonio, my friend, will be at my church, The Body, in Rock Hill SC on Sunday morning, August 5, at 10:30 am. If you are near, you should come and meet him. He is a soft-spoken guy with a heart of gold. You can hear of his challenges to help the people of the Philippines. He will share his reasons for all that he is called to do and yes, he will be asking for financial support. I am sure that our church will be doing our part and I have already personally been helping and will continue to do so. I would never ask people to do what I would not.
If you want to help, I know that he would appreciate it. Perhaps you can’t make it here to meet him, so you could make a contribution through our church website, http://www.thebodylive.com. Be sure to mark it for Antonio Ner. Another way to help would be to send him a friend request on Facebook. He can be found under the name Antonio Edgardo Garchitoreno Ner. You can see pictures of his homeland and follow his ministry as well as chat with him and ask how you can help.
I have often heard people in the states arguing over what color Jesus was. Was He black, white, olive completion? I think if the goal of a Christian is to be like Jesus and represent Jesus to those who don’t yet know him, and if you were to meet Antonio, you would say that Jesus just might be Filipino.

June 12, 2012

Customer Service

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/monstro/424289664/

I am not an economist so I can’t speak with great authority on the state of our economy, but I am pretty sure that it isn’t that good based on the anecdotal evidence that I see in my hometown. My wife and I went out to eat the other night and within a block saw no less than 7 businesses that were closed. When you ride down the main thoroughfare of our town there is business after business that is closed or going out of business. My friends who own their own business tell me that it is really tough to make ends meet. All of those millions of jobs that are being created don’t seem to be here, but like I said, this is purely anecdotal.
Anyway you slice it, business is not the best that it has ever been. And since the recession has started, and seems to never end, you would think that those who have a job would go out-of-the-way keep that job and earn your business. It is what use to be known as customer service. This is where the customer is served in such a way that they feel as if you appreciate them doing business with you and you try to ensure that they come back the next time that they need your service. I am finding it harder and harder to feel as if I ever want to go back to the places that I give my business to or in some cases trying to give it too.
I was in a store the other morning about 8:30am picking up a few items that I was going to need when I go to Cuba on my mission trip in a couple of weeks. At the check out when I swiped my card, the machine asked me if I would like cash back and I hit yes and asked for $20. The cashier looked at me and said, “You know ATMs are open 24 hours a day.” I was not sure what to say back to her. I told her “Yes, but the machine asked me if I wanted cash back and I said yes.” She again said, “You know ATMs are open 24/7″. So I asked if she worked for the bank or the store that I was standing in.
This store was not busy. It was not a small “mom and pop” store. They had cash in the drawer. I was only asking for $20 so I did not see the problem.
I have been trying to get the guy who installed our AC in our church to give me a quote on routine maintenance for our heat and air system. When we got our last unit installed I asked the owner 3 times for a quote and have called him twice since. I know that this time of year is busy for AC guys, but I want to give him money on a regular basis and hopefully for an extended amount of time.
A couple of Sundays ago, our fire alarm went off because something in our coffee shop started smoking. It was a piece of bread or something, so there was no threat. The alarm company called and I told them the situation and they said thanks. A few minutes later the fire trucks pull up and tells me that the alarm monitoring company said that no one from the church could be reached and so they were dispatched. I called to find out where the confusion was and in mid sentence was hung up on by the operator who monitors my church alarm system. When I called back to talk to the supervisor, she told me that no one hung up on me, that I was put on hold. I responded by saying, either way, I was in mid sentence when it happened, and that they need to have their phone system checked because their hold button hangs up on people.
The latest bout with non customer service is with the people who inspect our fire extinguishers. Every year they need to be inspected and a tag put on them saying that they are in good working order so when we are inspected by the fire marshal, he can see that we are meeting code. Every year we call to have them inspected and every year we tell them to put us down for annual service. So I am on my fifth day of leaving a message to one of the few people who do this and have still not gotten a return call. This inspection takes every bit of 15 minutes and they charge $75 to do it. That comes out to $300 dollars per hour and I can’t get them to even call me.
Customer service wins people’s loyalty. I know that some customers can be a real pain in the butt sometimes, but the majority of us just want some basic courtesy. We don’t want to inconvenience you by offering to give you money for a service that you provide. If it is that hard, we will find someone else who wants it. Thank you, is enough most of the time. Please come back, and is there anything else I can do for you today, would go a long way for most people deciding to come back. I have decided that as of today, I will not do business again with anyone who does not proved basic, courteous, customer service. Anyone want to join me?

June 8, 2012

What’s New?

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrentunnicliff/3717968862/

Change is a natural part of life and yet so many people fear and even loath change. If change never happened, we would spend much of our lives beating on vending machines…get it? Change? Vending Machines? I kill me. But seriously, change gives us butterflies, frogs, ice, and a new diaper.
Recently my wife has been feeling like it is time to change. No, not husbands. No need to lower her standards. Her job has been a real pain in the neck and even a few months before the recent stretch of difficult times in her office, we have been talking about how perhaps God was leading her to go elsewhere.
Changing jobs can be quite nerve-racking in the best of times, but throw into the mix a bad job market and it gets even more difficult. But when my wife told me that she had turned in her two weeks notice, she said that she felt peace about it. I knew then that she was hearing from God. The Bible tells us that God gives us peace in difficult times as a way of knowing that we can trust Him. I know my wife is a woman who prays about things and listens to God for direction. This is no different.
There have been many times through the years that we have had to make tough decisions about jobs that did not make the most sense to some at the time it happened. Early in my ministry I also ran my own VCR repair business. Yep, I said VCR. It was during the time in my ministry when I was only getting part-time pay as a youth pastor and was feeling like I was not being effective in my ministry. At the same time I had an opportunity to expand my business to become a part of a national company and the money part of it was quite awesome. In the same week I learned that the church was cutting my part-time salary and that God, through my prayer life was telling me to close my business; you know, the one that just showed promise of a national account. But I had been asking God to make something happen and that I would trust Him when he did. I had peace about my decision and my wife supported me, so I closed the business and within a week was called to interview for my first full-time pastorate.
I had never thought about moving from the town we lived in. It was home and it was where my church was and all was fine. I had been at my church for almost 4 years and it was growing. But in my prayer time I felt like God was telling me that another change was coming. Within a few months there were things that happened that caused me to resign from my church and spend almost a year not being a pastor of any church. It was one of the toughest things I had ever done, but I knew it was right. One day I got a call from a church in the town I currently live in wanting to interview me for the pastor of their church. I had no intention of moving to another town and neither did my wife,but after the interview I had a peace about it that I couldn’t understand and within a month the move was on.
My wife was an executive at a major cellular company. It was a job that most people only dream of and the financial part of it was incredible. But shortly after taking the church, she began to feel like she needed to leave the company. Although we both knew that this meant dramatic financial cuts, we also knew that God was behind it because we both felt a peace about it. So she took early retirement and resigned. Because of that, she was able to work with me at the struggling church that hired me. We were leading it through bold changes and I needed her management skills like never before. Because she listened to God, we were able to lead the church through a change that resulted in the church that I currently pastor. This is a church where we are seeing people’s lives changed on a daily basis. It has grown from a church of barely 30 people who worshiped on Sunday morning to a place where over 150 people worship on Sunday morning. Not only that, but the amount of people who have gotten saved here is incredible. This all happened because of making tough decisions about changing jobs at weird times and trusting God instead of what logic says.
So I am excited to see what God has in store next for My wife and I. She has so many skills and gifts that can be used in so many ways that I am having a hard time imagining the awesome experience that is coming. Sure, there may be a few challenges along the way, but that is why God gives us the skills that we have and the peace that comes from His promise to provide all of our needs according to His riches in Glory!
Something new is on the way. I like new! I am made new by the power of God and what Christ did for me on the cross. In heaven, everything will be new all the time and that is hard to understand. So, new is good and new can only come with change. God says that He will change us into new creatures in Christ and lead us through the change every day. How can we go wrong. I am excited about what’s new!

June 6, 2012

Cliques

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/maandag/2881628357/

I am not sure why I am blogging about a word that I had to look up in order to spell it properly. I want to spell it the way it sounds, click, but NOOOOO, it has to be spelled like a french word or something. Anyway, I was reading in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 today about a problem that the early church was having when people got together in small groups and started being exclusive to the point of being snobbish. This is how the Apostle Paul states it, 1 Corinthians 11:18, In the first place, I hear that when you gather as a church you split up into opposing groups. I believe some of what I hear. I hear from people all the time about their dislike of cliques, especially in the church and how rude they think it can be. So I got to thinking about what this really is and how did it come to be in an organization like the church where we are to love each other as brothers and sisters.
There is a huge difference in a clique and a small group, as most churches call there Bible studies and fellowship groups. Small groups are very biblical and are important to the Christian life. The average Sunday morning church attendance in the US is 75 people. That sounds low, but there are far more small churches than there are mega churches. It is not uncommon in many rural areas to have only 10 to 20 in attendance on any give Sunday. From that, the average small group consists of 5-8 people. Many try to make their small group the largest in a church, but that begins to get into the topic that Paul wrote about in the verse above.
Most people only have between 2 and 8 people in their lives that they can call real friends. I am talking about people that they socialize with on a regular basis and have more than a casual relationship like you see in most churches. Most people who attend church together only see each other on Sunday morning. Fewer than half of the people who attend on Sunday morning will attend a small group of any type related to the church. It is one of the reasons for the decline of church attendance if you ask me. Before every family had a car and most lately 2 and 3 cars per household, it was most likely that someone attending church was going to a local house of worship with fellow family members and folks that farmed or worked in the same community. This meant that they really knew each other and were able to better help in times of need. It also meant that relationships were more than superficial.
So the small group was started by Jesus who picked 12 disciples to teach and hang out with regularly. Then the modern church started Sunday school classes for age appropriate classes and even had male and female and married couples and singles classes. It was very common to have one class have the patriarchal family members in it that class and it became the class that had the most pull when it came to decisions in the church. This was never the intent of Jesus when He started a small group, but that is how we came to the point of having cliques. It is those cliques that cause people to become divisive and others to feel like they don’t fit in, not only to a small group, but to a church.
I love small groups. It is a great place to hang out with people who I can get close to. People who share my struggles as a parent, husband, or whatever my uniqueness is that draws us to that group. It is not a clique to have a group of guys who like to fish, hanging out together on a regular basis. It is a clique if those guys think that they are more special than another group and begin to make it impossible for anyone else to ever fit in with them.
I have been able to bring people to my small group who did not yet feel comfortable coming to Sunday morning worship. Through the small group they have made friends and found it easier to then come for the regular worship time. That is one of the great purposes that every small group should be striving for. We do have some groups that are a little more exclusive by the nature of what they are talking about. Our recovery classes help people with addictions and although I think that they would make someone feel welcome, it would just not be appropriate for someone who does not have an addiction they need help with. That is not a clique.
So if you have small groups in your church, use them as a tool to welcome others and never to exclude. If your small group is excluding others just because they don’t want new people, it might be time to change groups or even churches. There are a lot of great churches out there and we should never let a bad experience stop us from making friends or attending worship on a regular basis.

June 4, 2012

Sorry Mars

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/anniewong/112799109/

My last blog of last week was barely posted when I started getting replies. The very first reply was supportive and joking in response to my rebuttal of an article that I read on how we would have people living on Mars by 2023. So I could not wait to see more replies. Much to my surprise, they began to get nasty. Imagine my feelings, as fragile as they are, and how they must have hurt with some of your responses. There must have been a disconnect between the humor and sarcasm toward the article that I was writing about and the people who thought that I was being hateful and disrespectful to “green” people and the occasional vegan. To those who had their feelings hurt and might have been offended, I am truly sorry and will be very careful to never offend little green men from Mars again. No, wait, I mean “green” people who think that batteries are somehow better for the environment than my gas guzzling truck, which I love.
To the vegans who were offended or had their feelings hurt; I am truly sorry and will be very careful to never offend little green men from Mars again.
My dad once told me that if you had to explain a joke then it was not a good one or that you told it bad. My dad left off another possibility…Maybe the audience is too stupid, no that isn’t how you spell what I am trying to say. Umm, Maybe the audience is too self righteous…no that isn’t how to say what I am trying to spell. Well never mind. I guess some people just don’t appreciate or can not understand my supreme intellect when dealing in humor or they are too focused on themselves to be able to understand sarcasm. Either way, it was a fabulous blog filled with great jokes and sarcasm.
I love “green” people. I once sent a whole box of batteries to a the recycling place after I found out they don’t work if you mix them in the gas tank of your lawn mower. See, two attempts at being green in one failure. I even give some of my tax money to support the two electric recharging stations that are at the county park and no one can park there except people who own electric cars. I have seen one parked there in the months since they were installed. I am not sure if it is because people can’t afford electric cars or can’t afford to drive them after paying way too much for them or maybe they ran out of battery power before they got to their free electric charging station that I am helping pay for. You know, I was just thinking, I bet the won’t have that problem on Mars.
I love vegans too. In fact we have one that comes to our church. She is so cute when she gets angry. But I checked with her and she said that everything that I said in my blog was perfectly said and that she wouldn’t change a thing. At least that is what I think I heard her say. But I would have no problem with a meatless Mars; seriously.
I am glad that I got to clear all of this up and everyone is now happy again. I knew it only take one more blog to fix what you were thinking. Thanks for being so patient with me and for understanding. I do feel much better now. So to celebrate I am getting in my truck and driving to the farthest store in town that sells beef jerky and I am going to come home and eat it while I crank the AC down a few degrees so that I can enjoy it after I finish running all of that bad gas out of my lawn mower.
One last thing…I heard absolutely no complaints from talking robots, Klingons, or Romulans. I appreciate them more and more with every blog.

June 1, 2012

Life on Mars

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alsand/2057682493/

WARNING<<<The following blog should be read at your own risk and the writer is not responsible for any blown gaskets and strokes that it may cause>>>
I just read an article that says by 2023 there will be humans living on Mars. I have a hard time getting too excited about this because when I was a kid we were told that we would be there before the year 2000. In fact, we were supposed to have flying cars and robots that clean the house and talk to you. I don’t know how many remember this but 2001: A Space Odyssey was a 1968 movie and everyone knew that space would be home for humans.
The Jetsons had flying cars and a talking robot that cleaned their house. They didn’t have to walk anywhere because all the sidewalks moved. They didn’t even have to dress themselves because the robotic arms did it for them. They all worked at either Spacely’s Sprockets or Cogwell’s Cogs and the only had to push buttons because everything else was automated.
Star Trek had us living in deep space just a hundred years from now. We will have Vulcan friends who only deal with things logically. It won’t be as nice as what the Jetsons have because of the new enemies we will have; Klingons and Romulans. But there will be some incredible green woman who takes control of you because of their pheromones. My wife will have a hard time with that one, but because she loves me, I think she would paint herself green to keep me happy.
Lost in Space was another show that told of deep space human habitation. They too had a robot that talked even though it looked like a trash can with drier ducts as arms. Most of what they dealt with seemed to be monsters if I remember correctly. I really didn’t care for that future as much as I did the Jetsons.
I always thought that before we could travel into outer space to set up colonies that we needed to be visited by little green men. I know that many think that we already have been visited, but I mean where everyone knows it and they have like an embassy here or they have completely taken over and made us slaves. I personally believe that aliens do visit here on a regular basis. They do this when children turn 13 and they suck their brains out. This happened to each of my children.
I hope that we do get to build a colony on Mars. I would love to start a church there and send many of my “favorite” members there. They could help start the church the way they want it and I would be back here on earth where I could care less how screwed up things get. And all the “green people”, not the aliens who visit us, but the ones who say we are destroying this planet, can move to Mars and make sure that we don’t destroy it too. Maybe they all could move there and give up on earth and then I could burn coal and drive my truck in peace.
Sadly, I think all my vegan friends would move there too. Because there are no animals on Mars, they could only take plants for food and they could all live happily ever after while I stay here and eat bacon and other delicious meat products, cooked over my coal powered stove. I would be glad to send my share of most vegetables with them as my sacrifice to their happiness. With Vegans and “green people” living on Mars, then we would have more room for people who want to have large cook outs with burgers, hot dogs, and ribs, all covered in bacon.
I feel better now that I have come to grips with reality. My next deep space project will be to find a place where politicians can go. Oh wait, I think you already know where that might be.

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