Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I love this holiday. I have more than I can name to be thankful for, but I always like to mention a few.
I am thankful for my wife. She is the girl of my dreams and the love of my life. Everything I ever wanted in a woman is fulfilled in her, except the fact that she does not fish or like baseball. (I have to keep her humble) Other than that, she is everything I could dream of in a wife.
I am thankful for my kids and grandkids. They are far from perfect, but, I still like them. None of them have become filthy rich yet so I will probably have to work until I am really old. I am still thankful for them.
I am thankful for my church. It is full of really weird people who remind me that God made none of us perfect. Some of them look weird and most of them act weird. They will make it possible for me to continue working as a pastor until I am really old.
I am thankful for the friends that I have. Really.
I am thankful for my salvation through Jesus Christ. I do not deserve what He did for me.
I think that is all I want to mention right now. There has been plenty that I did not mention for someone to get their feelings hurt because I did not mention them or what they did.
I want to close out this blog by telling you who I am thanking. Way too many people say that they are thankful, but don’t really think about who they are thankful too. In my case it is God. Not a god, but the one true living God. The one who forgave me, started fixing me, and will always love me. The God that gave me everything I mentioned above and everything I failed to mention. He made the turkeys that we will eat and the families that we will be hanging out with. He gave His Son to die in my place and His Spirit to guide me through this life. Without Him I am nothing but a body waiting to expire. With Him I am anything He wants me to be and even though this life is temporary, He has assured me of a life that will never end. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. That is who I am thanking. Not just during this great holiday, but everyday that He lets me live on this earth.
Thanks God! And Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I love this holiday. I have more than I can name to be thankful for, but I always like to mention a few.
I am very blessed to be serving in a church where people “get it”. Last week, many of those who serve in our children’s ministry and greeter ministry as well as our music ministry were away on Sunday and yet the church did not fall to pieces. The reason is that others did not hesitate to step up and fill in where needed. Every Sunday our church functions in ways that I can only describe as incredible. For a church our size, we do more than other churches two and three times our size do and this is a testament to the people who attend.
Sure there are those who have not found their place yet and there are others who have not found the motivation yet and there are still those who don’t care yet, but they are few and they are being taught otherwise. I always ask people what are they doing and if they say nothing or I don’t know, I try to find them something to do. You see, we want people who act like the own the place not members who think that they deserve a staff to meet their every need. This is how God wants us to view the church. In fact we are told that we are God’s building blocks in the church and that we are His co-workers in building the church. There is no place in the Bible that teaches us to join in membership with privileges.
I don’t know where you attend or if you attend a church on Sunday morning. If you are attending somewhere, are you serving? Do you have a reason to be there outside of “doing your weekly sacrifice to God”? If you don’t show up, do people miss you? If you didn’t find someone to fill in, would things go undone? Every church member should evaluate their importance in the church as workers and not attenders. We are to let our good works shine before others and glorify God. If you don’t have a place to get involved, perhaps all you need to do is ask. But if you are told there is nothing needed, try picking up trash that no one else will or sprucing up the bathrooms just before church starts or maybe do something as simple as greeting everyone with a smile and a friendly “hello”.
If you don’t go to church and you are thinking about it, look for a place that has needs. Look for a place that you can offer to use your talents and then get involved. It will make getting to know others and getting to know God a lot easier. It will help you to feel needed and wanted and you might even help others who would not attend because of something you are willing to do that “regular” church people won’t, don’t, and haven’t thought about doing.
Make it your priority to be missed if you aren’t there. Train others to do what you do and do it better than anyone else. Serve God with the gifts and talents that He gave you and you will find joy and satisfaction at whatever church you attend. I know that as a pastor I sure do appreciate those who get involved in serving at my church. We are growing and new folks are coming every week. I would love to say it is because the pastor is such an awesome dude, but, I don’t need too. I mean, I am only doing my part. Others are the ones who make it the friendly and welcoming place where they feel safe and excited about bringing their friends and family.
If your pastor hasn’t asked you lately, then let me…What are you doing?
Politics can really put a strain on relationships. It makes me wonder if we shouldn’t put a bit of thought into what is happening in our politics, or better yet, in our friendships, if we can become so divided over something like an election.
I have really tried to avoid voicing my political opinions very adamantly because I know that it would strain some relationships with some of my friends. It has already cost me one or two Facebook friends, which obviously were not real friends, because I either responded to something they said or they did not like what I said. Sadly, we can allow politics to interfere with friendships when they are rarely why we became friends to begin with.
Have we forgotten that as Americans we all have freedom of speech? It seems as if one side is always trying to make the other side sound as if they are anti-American or even bigoted if their opinion differs. But the beauty of America is that we all have the right to say what we think. Yes, even bigots can voice their opinion and I can’t do anything about it. I can lobby against their cause and I can vote against their candidate, but I cannot stop them from saying what they want to say, and yes, they can call me names too.
Isn’t friendship stronger than politics though? What makes your friendship strong is a relationship. That makes me wonder what kind of relationship we think that we have if an election season and ruin friendships? Facebook friends for the most part are not really friendships. I am talking about people whom we know or at least thought that we knew for some period of time. This precious bond of friendship is supposed to be one of respect and mutual admiration. We are supposed to know more about our friends than what pages they like and what pictures they share on a web-page. We should know what their deep-rooted beliefs are. Do they think that wealth should be redistributed or do they feel like they should be able to keep the money they earn and give to charity as desire? Do they believe that life is a precious gift from God and it begins at conception or do they feel like a woman can do whatever she wants with something that is within her own body? Do they feel like marriage is already defined or needs to be redefined? But do these things really make a friendship?
You know what surprises me? These things are rarely talked about when two friends get together for a lunch or game of cards or to watch a movie. These things are important, but most people don’t meet at political rallies to begin friendships. most friendships begin in school or on the golf course or at a kid’s soccer game. Most friendships are formed with the idea that you like that person for who they are, not what political views they have. And, these friendships should last even when you find out that he is a Republican and you are not or she is a liberal and you are not.
Some of my best friends hold vastly different political views than I do. I have known that for a long time and though they are wrong for disagreeing with me, (haha), we work together, play together, laugh together, cry together, and yes, we attend the same church together. We do this because politics is not the driving force behind our relationship. We can be different and still like each other. We can hold views that are very polarizing in the political world and not let it cause our friendship to suffer. Different is not always wrong and even if it is, how will you ever change someone’s mind if you don’t like them as a person?
America is a beautiful place where people from every walk of life can live together and voice their opinions and still love each other as fellow Americans. We can work together and play together and vote opposite of each other and at the end of the day, still be friends. If you can’t do this, perhaps you should evaluate who you call friends and what a true friend really is. Perhaps you should decide if politics is more important than a friend and if so, be prepared to live a lonely life. Politicians will say whatever it takes to get your vote, a friend will doesn’t care about your vote, whoever it is for, they care about you.
This weekend is our second annual church camping trip. Our participation has doubled from last year and so the pressure is on to make it as much or more fun. I don’t think that this will be a problem. As I have said so many times before, I love the people of my church. They are weird, whacky, and fun to be around.
Last year we did our camping in late October and it just happened to be the coldest October in the history of the planet. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it was cold. The low temps were in the 30′s, although my feet said that it was more like 20 below. But we had plenty of firewood, warm clothes, blankets and moonshine. Just kidding, we didn’t have any moonshine, but you would think that some of these people were drinking. There was way too much laughing and cutting up for that many people to be sober, right? Not this bunch. We are had rather be filled with the Spirit rather than strong drink.
So this year we moved the trip back a month and the weather is supposed to be perfect. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the upper 50s. The rain has moved out and the sun is supposed to shine abundantly. We were a bit worried, as all this week it has rained several times very hard; I am talking inches of rain.
Something about camping just makes for a lot of fun. Fishing, making smores, singing around the campfire and hiking are just a few things that lend to the fun. My favorite thing is eating food cooked over a fire. Hopefully there will be some fresh fish this year. But what I look forward to the most is the fellowship with my friends and family and the worship on Sunday morning. Last year my friendship with those who went grew exponentially and I believe that this will happen again this year.
Worshiping around a campfire on Sunday morning with a bunch of friends is an awesome experience. This year I won’t have to try to play guitar with frost-bitten fingers. In fact, won’t have to play guitar at all. We are going to be treated to worship led by our international student that has invaded my house. He is an incredible musician and will be playing and singing. I have asked him to not only lead us in English but to sing a song in Korean. Why? Because God uses praise to speak to our hearts, not our ears. So the worship time will be very special. Then I get to preach with coffee in hand and still wearing my pajamas. No, not the sexy ones that you think I wear, those are for my favorite wife, who will be in her pajamas, and well, she makes them all look…never mind. Back to the preaching.
I love preach/teaching in an intimate atmosphere and being around a campfire is as good as that gets. God’s creation glorifies Him and puts the pressure on us to glorify Him. I am not sure what I will talk about, but it will be different from my normal preaching schedule this year. I want to be sure that we get a chance to experience worship and fellowship in a way that makes us all desire to be back next year with even more friends and family.
I love my church! I can’t wait to hang out with them and experience God’s fellowship with us.
God brings people in and out of our lives all of the time. Rarely do we have those super special people who stay around a long time. God has been very very good to me and has not only brought me a wife that has stuck around, but has brought me several friends too. A couple of these friends, needs your prayers. I am only doing this because it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission and she would probably tell me no if I asked her if I could post this.
Sheila and I met at church in a very strange way. Her and her family lived just a couple of doors down from the church I worked at and she was using us as an occasional baby sitters for her children. Her and her significant other were not church people and did not plan on becoming church people. If the truth be known, they still aren’t church people; they are amazing people who know Jesus and have blessed our church by making it theirs now. I will condense this part quite a bit, but it is an amazing testimony. After a few weeks, she started coming, then James, and the next thing you know we are baptizing them and performing a middle of the week wedding. Over the next 8 years, they have become friends to the point of being family.
Here is the prayer need. James in the hospital ICU with a weird lung problem and the doctors are not optimistic about his recovery being quick nor full. I personally believe that God has other plans. Sheila has to work and many of our church folks are helping where we can. She is hard-headed and stubborn, but we are working around that. But I am asking you to pray for her specifically because the love of her life is very sick and she is hurting from it. She has amazing patience and stamina for persevering through tough times, but this is different as you can see. Pray for her to be strengthened and for patience and for God’s grace to be overflowing in her life at this time. She is by far one of the best people God has ever sent to our church and to me as a friend.
Pray for her two boys, both teenagers. That in it self is a need for prayer when everything is going just fine. But now they are faced with uncertainty and I am sure their faith is being tested. Pray that they will find extra patience with mom and that they will see just how awesome God is, even in the hard times, which is when we all need it most.
Pray for James. That his recovery will be faster than the doctors can ever explain and that the recovery is full. He recently quit driving a truck and has been home for the last few months and because of that has been in church regularly ever since. He has grown in his relationship with God and was really getting to find his place with friends and in serving at the church. It goes without saying that he loves his family and loves the Lord. But when something like this happens, even the strongest faith can be challenged.
Yep, every so often we get blessed with someone special in our lives and when they are hurting, you hurt. So I am asking everyone who reads this to take a minute to pray for my good friends. I will keep you updated as we hear the good news start to happen. Thanks for taking this time to read about this special need and thanks most of all for taking time to pray.
I want to tell you about an organization that is worth checking out. It is called Third Option Men. The founder is a guy named Evan, and him and his dad were the ones who made our trip to Cuba possible. I encourage you to check out the website and/or Facebook page. The website is www.thirdoptionmen.org and just type in the name to find them on Facebook. The purpose of this group is to encourage guys to develop relationships that allow for accountability and more than just a Sunday morning type relationship that is far to common in the church today. It is about the type of relationship that Jesus had with his disciples, close and personal.
Far too often men tend to take their Christianity way too casually. We want the type of relationship that does not allow another man to get close enough to ask the hard questions or hear the brutal truth about how we are struggling in our relationships at work, home, and with God. Evan describes this beginning and often only type of man to man relationship of Christian males as the ‘awkward handshake’. The kind of relationship where we know your name and your favorite football team but never know that your marriage is falling apart and you might be struggling with an addiction. He encourages us to develop relationships that are real, relevant and reliable, just like Jesus and His relationship with others.
Basically, men have only three options in life. We can live for self, live for worldly gain, or live for God. Christian men need to choose the third option…get it? Third Option Men?
Living for self is easy. Looking out for number one is the way we are taught through most of life and the media. This is much like the “if it feels good do it” mentality. I saw a commercial the other day about a company that does cosmetic surgery and one of the women made the statement that if there was something that someone could do to make them feel better about themselves that they should do it at any cost. So if you think the way God made you is not good enough and that He made a mistake, a doctor can fix it and you will feel good about yourself. Sadly, surgery does nothing for that God shaped hole we are all trying to fill. So self-indulgence is not the answer.
Living for worldly gain sounds good. If we could only have more money, a bigger house, or a nicer car, we would feel better. Even if we could have bigger breasts (not men, but our wives) and less wrinkles, that would help, but you need to have the money for that. After all, we see how happy all the Hollywood crowd is with their plastic surgery and successful marriages and lack of drug and alcohol abuse, (Sarcasm). I actually saw more satisfied people in Cuba making $20 a month than I see in Hollywood making millions. Before you disagree, think about the number of famous people who are divorced, in rehab, gone broke, or even killed themselves. Jesus said it best about this option; Matthew 16:26, What good will it do for people to win the whole world and lose their lives? Or what will a person give in exchange for life?
The third option, to live for God, requires one to deny self and think of others. It requires you to build a relationship with someone who cares enough to invest time in you or vice versa. It requires you to give and to love and to get involved with someone to the point that you know what is really important and what can really help. It is what Jesus did with the men that He decided to hang out with. It is what we need to do as Christian men.
We took this message into Cuba and found that men there have the same reservations as we do in America. But when laid out in plain and biblical truths, it is undeniable that it works and is needed. Not the program or the book, or even the title, but the lifestyle. Third Option Men has a heart for those who are hurting and is going into churches and communities and countries to help men get over that macho attitude of self-reliance and teaching them to live for God.
I chose the third option. It is not easy and I fail often, but I have some friends who know how to help and care when I struggle. They too have chosen to follow God. God does not want men to be loners, but to have vital relationships to help us through that many paths that He may lead us.
Check it out…Third Option Men.
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.
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.
As you have heard in the past, I pastor an incredible church. I try not to say that too often because they will get big heads and start thinking that I like them. Then they would expect me to keep saying nice things about them. Anyway, this weekend was great. We are very blessed to have a place where our folks can feel good about bringing their friends who don’t go to church. Every week we have new faces in the crowd because someone is bringing friends. As a pastor, this is both refreshing and humbling.
This Sunday we were privileged to get to baptize 5 people. For a church our size, about 150, it is unusual to see so many baptized at once, but we do this quite often. So far this year we have baptized over 25 people. We had a few others who were scheduled to be dunked but they did not make it due to sickness in the family. I was disappointed.
I am not sure of why I let it bother me but it did. I am thrilled that 5 people were there, but was strangely bothered by those who did not make it. I understood that there was reason they did not come, but it still bothered me. I would like to explain that I have a competitive nature and somehow felt like I was winning a race or something. Even though I still won, I could have done better, if that makes sense.
You see, baptizing people means that people are getting to know Jesus. When people get to know Jesus they accept Him as Savior. When they accept Him as Savior, they no longer go to hell and Satan loses. Take that! Punk! When Satan loses, God gets the glory and when God gets the glory, I like it. But there is still something in me that likes to think I had a part in it. I like to think God has used our church as a small part of His plan. I struggle with the prideful side of this, but I guess it is okay to be proud to be on the winning team.
When God allows us to be part of what He is doing, we must be careful to never forget that without Him there is nothing that really matters. If there is no God, then baptized people just got wet and our church is a place where strange delusions cause people to act weird. But because there is a God, we act weird and dunk people in water because they are professing to know Jesus. Either way I guess it can sound a bit strange.
Pride can take you in ways that you shouldn’t go. It can cause you to think about self and feel pitiful if you don’t get what you want or it can motivate you to do more so that others get what they need. My feeling blah about the folks that did not make it this Sunday was a little of both. I guess I should be careful not to let the negative side of pride get the best of me. There are many churches out there would be thrilled to baptize 5 people in a whole year, and I got to do it in one Sunday morning. WOOHOO!