Archive for December, 2011

December 31, 2011

No More This Year

by pastortimfowler

I have decided that this will be the last blog that I do for the rest of the year. I figure that I will start back sometime next year. Please be patient and don’t panic. For my last blog of 2011, I thought it would be good to say thanks to everyone who has read any of my blogs and share a few last thoughts for the year.
I do read every bit of feedback that I get. I do not post every reply because some are not appropriate to be posted on a church website, where all of my blogs are posted. Some are simply personal and other are redundant. But I do read and appreciate your feedback.
This year was the first time that I have ever attempted to blog on a regular basis. It has been quite challenging to not get repetitive and to continually come up with something worth reading. Some of you are waiting patiently for that to happen still. I have found some of the best ideas for blogs come from you guys. Many this year have come from one particular friend who loves to challenge me and I think that she likes to give topics that she knows that I will get blasted for. I do enjoy the challenge and I hope that next year more people will offer suggestions for topics. As you can tell, I don’t shy away from many, even though I probably should.
It has been my goal to be honest, biblical, and funny. To challenge you to think outside of what is comfortable and to learn from the things that others respond back with. I try hard to state plainly when it is an opinion and I try even harder to not offend, although that is virtually impossible. I do wish that some people would not get so uptight about things that are clearly one person’s opinion or even an attempt at humor. Humor is one of my favorite tools, no matter how lame the attempt.
My life has been a roller coaster of experience from one extreme to the other. Through it all, God has been very merciful and has not yet killed me for being stupid from time to time. Instead, He has allowed me to learn from my mistakes, given me an abundance of chances to change for the better, I hope. I believe that it is God that motivates me to share my life and thoughts through these blogs and I will do my best to always give Him the WOOHOO’s that He deserves.
Thanks again for reading. 2011 was pretty good, 2012 is going to be great!

December 30, 2011

2011 Stickers

by pastortimfowler

Here are a few things that 2011 left stuck in my brain:
1. The 7th grandkid is as awesome to welcome to the family as the 1st. My youngest son and his wife brought into the world, Bryson, and it was as exciting as ever. I am always blown away by seeing a newborn and especially from one of my own children. God gives us a special miracle in every child and as we were blessed with our now 7th grandkid, I am still in awe. SEVEN grandkids!!! WOW!!!
2. Jake got a kidney. Jake was born with many medical problems and one that effected many of the others was his need for a working kidney. Early in the year he got his new kidney and since then his improvement has been nothing less than miraculous. At 2 years old, he could not eat solid food, his speech was extremely limited, and just the hassle of dialysis was horrible. But since the transplant he has began to eat, talk, and so many of the other problems have shown improvement. He was not supposed to ever be born alive, but God had other plans. Now he is more alive than ever.
3. Our church has grown. 2010 was a very tough year in many ways and made 2011 start off with much anticipation and even some anxiety. We had bought a building and the economy was tanking and our people were struggling to keep and find jobs. Financially it was tough. We needed to make some improvement to the building and numerical growth was minimal. But our people made tough choices and sacrificed and we survived. This last year we have seen our finances grow to allow us to make the improvements needed and our numerical growth has been incredible. We saw over 70 people raise their hand to salvation and over 50 of those were baptized. But what is the best growth of all came in the spiritual side of people. God brought up and brought in leaders. Many of our new folks grew into servants and servant leaders. We reached out to our community in ways that exceeded all expectations. We gave to help meet the needs of most anyone who asked and to many who didn’t. We did not grow to be the biggest church in town, but I do believe we may have grown the biggest heart for people in need. God has to be pleased with their unselfishness and love for our neighbors.
4. I am still married. No, we were not nearly divorced. But I consider myself to blessed beyond measure every year that I can say that I am married to her. If you only knew me like she knows me, you would know that she must be something special to put up with me. As shocking as that may sound, because I can be wonderful, she gets that part of me that is, how should I say, not so wonderful. Proverbs 18:22 Whoever finds a wife finds something good and has obtained favor from the Lord. I have to smile and even laugh to think that God shows me favor. If there has ever been a guy who did NOT deserve God’s favor it would be me. But because of His great love, mercy, and forgiveness and because Jesus paid my sin debt, I am not just a Christian, but God loves me and even shows it in giving me my wife.
I look forward to 2012. God has great things in store for me and for you.

December 27, 2011

I Don’t Know When

by pastortimfowler

There are only a few days left in the year. Really?!?! 2011 is almost over? Time flies when you are having fun. I just hope that this isn’t our last days, because I have already paid for my cruise in January. What am I talking about? The Mayan calendar that ends in 2011. Oh wait; never mind. I was just told that we have until December 2012 before it all ends. The good news is that I won’t have to do any Christmas shopping for next year and I get to take my cruise if this is true.
What if we only had a few days left? What would it be like?
Imagine for a moment that we were told beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world would end in a few days. Do you think it would be a fun place to finish out your last days? Or do you think it would be pure chaos? I would put my money on the chaos. It would be nice to think that brotherly love would break out and we would all gather around to sing and hug for the remainder of our lives, but something tells me that it would be a dangerous and violent place with rape and theft and fear for those who are weak.
The Bible tells us that in the last days, there will be just that type of situation. Violence and fear, not peace and love. Left to ourselves, humanity will self destruct and there is not much that we can do about it. Laws can only restrain lawlessness as long as there is someone to enforce the laws with consequences that compel one to think twice before committing such an act. It is also God that puts a sense of right and wrong in our hearts and a fear of knowing that one day we will be judged. It is God that restrains evil and allows for order in our world and even with Him in control that potential for evil in humans is barely kept in check.
The difference between the last days of the world without God and the last days of the world with God are pretty simple. Without God, there is no hope and it all ends in destruction. With God, there is hope and He promises a new life, new heaven and new earth. God is the God of hope. He is the God of salvation. He is life and love and He offers this freely to all who ask.
The Bible tells us that no man knows the hour or the day of the end of the world as we know it. Only God. But He promises to those who know Him and His salvation that we will not face His wrath, but be saved. I do believe that it is a good thing that we don’t know the hour or the day. Many religious “know-it-alls” have tried to say that they know the end and predict the date, but they are fools. God does not want us to know the time of the end because He wants us focused on life. He wants us loving people and helping those in need and sharing the good news that He saves and He loves. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.
I don’t know when it all will end but I do know Jesus, so…Bring on 2012!!!

December 22, 2011

From Me To You

by pastortimfowler

This will be my last blog for a few days. It will be Christmas soon and we are traveling several times. Although they are short trips of less than two hours, it is still traveling. I only get to spend time with my family like this a few times a year and this is always special since my kids have married and moved away. Christmas just keeps getting more special to me, a guy who use to despise it and regretted the whole family ordeal.
Christmas for many of my early adult years was spent acting like I enjoyed the facade of family when in reality I was bitter and hateful. After marrying my wife and meeting her family it was hard to watch so many people loving each other so openly and I had a hard time with it. But they were not putting on a front, they were real and I learned to like it. Then as I got older and God became more real to me and called me into the ministry I began to see things with a better light. It was about family and it was about getting together, but more so it was about Jesus and Jesus has given me even more family through kids and grand kids and my church. I am richly blessed!
This is the time of year when Christ is in the forefront. It is the celebration of His birth, regardless of what anyone says. And it is because of His love for me that I am no longer bitter and angry at Christmas, but joyful and at peace. It took time, but God is patient.
So for Christmas this year I get to drive to three different places on three different days and hang out with family and friends. I get to see kids smile and adults laughing and I can look in the mirror and see a once broken and bitter man now filled with Christ’s love and joy. This only happens because I took a long look in the mirror too often and saw something that I didn’t like and couldn’t fix. It was not until I personally met Jesus and allowed Him to be the meaning of Christmas and the Lord of my life that I was able to find the peace that I had longed for.
I hope that you have joy and love and peace this Christmas. I hope that your families are able to get together and celebrate and I hope that Jesus is the reason that you are celebrating. But if you are like I was and you struggle with this, take some time to get alone and see if God will meet you there. He only wants to know if you believe in Him. He will only help if you ask. God does not intrude where He is not wanted, but will meet you anytime you ask. The transformation takes time and the joy is hard to recognize at first. But with time and you seeking to know Him, God reveals this joy, gives this peace, and fills with love, even the hardest and most bitter heart, like mine.
Merry Christmas to you. Peace, joy, and love, from Christ the Savior.

December 21, 2011

Christmas Giving

by pastortimfowler

Christmas is a strange time of year. It is the time when most people are the most joyful, and at the same time it can be a time when they are at their lowest. It is a time of giving and receiving and spending time with family and friends. This is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. I would like to share what I get to be a part of every year at my church and I will try to remain as humble as possible, but at the same time I am running over with pride.
We are a medium-sized church of about 150 people and this number changes, lately it has been increasing. We reach a unique group of people, mostly young families and people who do not fit the typical “churchy” crowd. Like their pastor, many of these have been turned off by religion at one time or another and even hurt by the politics that often ruins what church should be. But for whatever reason, God has seen fit to bring us together under the roof of a building and in a church family called The Body, A Church for Anybody.
With the economy being as bad as it is, we find ourselves in fellowship with several families that are struggling to make ends meet and because these are families with kids, it is a difficult time to celebrate Christmas when some may not be able to give gifts to their kids. Giving gifts is a custom of the season that allows us to escape the reality of hard times and focus on putting a smile on the face of children, but when you lose a job or income gets cut, it can be difficult to make this happen on your own. Without a second thought, the people in our church have taken to the spirit of giving and made sure that these kids smile on Christmas morning. There are 5 families that will be blessed by receiving, but probably 20 more that will be blessed by Christmas giving.
One family told me today that they sacrificed giving their adult children gifts, with those adult children’s blessings, in order to provide for another family with children who still live at home. They took the $100 that they would normally spend for those gifts and bought for someone else. Today I was told that they received an unexpected bonus from work that doubled that amount. You just can’t help but think that God was showing how much He likes Christmas giving too.
On Christmas day, we will gather for a morning worship and after church several of us are going out to a restaurant that is open to sing a Christmas Carol and give a gift to those who are working. As grateful as they must be to have a job, it has to be tough to work on Christmas day. So we have been collecting “tips” for about two months now for the purpose of giving to those who are waiting tables and serving others on Christmas day a bit of Christmas cheer that will hopefully make their Christmas sacrifice well worth it. We have chosen a restaurant that only has 5 or 6 people who are working that day and because of the generosity of the people in my church, each person who is working will receive a Christmas card with over $100 in it.
Again, it is hard to be humble when you talk about something that you are involved in, but I am blown away by the love of the people who I serve at this church and it does truly humble me to know them. They love others and show it through their actions and the biggest action this time of year is in their Christmas giving. I love it!!!
Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2011

Christmas meal

by pastortimfowler

Yesterday was our church’s annual Christmas meal and this has become one of my favorite things about our church. We take all the chairs that normally form a semi-circle seating pattern for worship and set up tables and chairs for a family style eating extravaganza. Extravaganza is one of my favorite, but least used words in my vocabulary. The men and women of the church cook turkey and ham and all the favorite holiday type foods that you can imagine and after a brief, yet wonderful sermon, we eat and laugh and hang out until most of the food is gone. Then those who are able, load people into wheelbarrows and take them out back to sleep it off.
Our church is my family. No, I am not dissing my wife and kids, but this is a special relationship that we all share and it is truly family. We share food, share laughter and share tears. No one is left alone and everyone does their part of making it all work. Like in most families, there is always the grumpy person and the weird aunt or uncle that everyone tries not to act like we are avoiding, but other than that we can’t get enough of this special fellowship.
God wants His people to have a closeness. We are told that people will know that we are His because of how we love each other. I don’t think that there would be much doubt of that if you were to have been there yesterday. And, I can proudly say that most anytime that you visit, you will find the same love among the people. None of us are “holier than thou” and many of us are as “messed up as thou” and that makes it easy to find common ground.
As in most churches, there are always a handful who work hard to manage the chaos and organize the efforts. Those who did it this time are amazing in how well it was done and the love at which they used to bring us all together. It was not just a list of things to do but an effort to think of how people’s needs would be met. I believe the biblical term would be ministry, which means serving, which Jesus says makes you great, and I can only say that there were some great people organizing this whole thing.
The day did not end when the meal was over. Lots of folks stayed to help with the clean up. After that, many of the guys and youth stayed to watch football as many of the moms took the younger kids to see Santa. They are the brave souls in the crowd.
Later that night our youth had their Christmas party and another group of servants showed their greatness to make that happen. With nearly twenty youth and a handful of adults, the music was loud, the games were wild and the family was happy. I was the smartest of all; I went home after welcoming them and opening the party in prayer.
Christmas is a special time and can be difficult to those who don’t have family. Some people are alone because they have moved, other because of hardship. Some have been shunned by family and friends and others have condemned themselves because of past experiences. My plea is that you not allow the past to ruin the future. God can and will forgive you for whatever the past holds. God will provide a place and people for you to celebrate if you chose to seek it. I would like to invite you to be a part of my family and our celebration of God’s great love. We don’t judge, we don’t condemn, we don’t exclude. We are The Body, A Church for Anybody, and especially you.
Merry Christmas!

December 16, 2011

It’s In Us

by pastortimfowler

Last night about midnight I was trying to get my solid white, except for a brown eye patch, Jack Russel to come in and quit barking before the neighbors called the police on us. For about 20 minutes she had been barking continually. Finally I slipped my shoes on and went out to get her only find her in a fight with a very large possum. My dog is every bit if 13 pounds, but in her mind she is 130 pounds. The possum was at least 15-20 pounds and looked like it was doing well in the fight until they ran into the sandbox that has been converted to a mud-wrestling pit. It didn’t take long before the possum was not playing possum and I picked up my now solid brown Jack Russel and went in to give her a bath.
Over the years, we have been kept safe from all sorts of wild animals like squirrels, rabbits, mice, and possums. For the most part they are left outside and I dispose of them, but occasionally they get brought in through the doggie door and I find them via smell. That is always fun, but rare.
My wife gets very frustrated with her dog because she wanted a little froo froo dog and she can’t accept the fact that this one is a natural-born killer. As I was having lunch with her today, I was re-telling the story of how I was up bathing her dog at midnight while she was sleeping and she asked me, “why does she have to kill every rodent that comes in our yard?” To which I responded, “it is bred into her”. For those who don’t know, the Terrier breed was specifically bred to hunt rodents. They can’t help themselves no matter how you try to raise them, it is in their blood.
I believe that humans are like this in many ways. We are born to sin. No matter how well we are raised, we sin at early ages and continue our whole lives; we can’t help it. No one taught us to lie, yet we quickly deny our involvement with another sibling who has just gotten in trouble. As babies we learn that crying will get mommy to come pick us up. So what was meant to be a way of communicating pain, fear, or hunger, becomes a way of getting what we want. We grow up to convince ourselves that there is a right way of lying and deny that the truth is the best thing to handle a situation.
There is another thing that I believe humans are born with that is often covered deep with sin and humanistic teachings and that, is a desire to know God. God created humans with this in hopes that one day we would seek the truth and see that it is Him that has the answer to the meaning of life. In fact, it is God who is the author and finisher of life and until we get to know Him, life is a continual search for a purpose that we can’t fulfill on our own.
God has been the heart’s desire of every human ever born. The Greeks and Romans created gods for every reason a man could think of. They built statues and worshiped them as if they were alive but never found satisfaction because they were not real. The native Americans had gods of nature and animals but were not satisfied because the life that these gods had were taken by the humans that worshiped them. And from the beginning of civilization, man has claimed to be his own god more often than not. Believing that we are the saviors our selves, only to be let down by our own frailty. No god created by man will every satisfy what the one true God put in us and that is a desire to know the truth and He is that truth.
This time of year, Christmas, the whole world hears of a Savior that was born some 2000 years ago. Something in us tells us that this is a special time of year. A time of peace and hope and giving. A time of family and friends and brotherly love. A time of trying to deny the truth and substitute the man-made meaning of a God-given Love. So many times we hear tragic stories of brokenness and loneliness because what we desire is a relationship. This relationship can never be filled with people or things but rather the love of the meaning of it all, Jesus. For unto us a child was born, Jesus, and He will save the people from their sins. He was given because of God’s great love and His desire to know us intimately.
Like my dog, who can’t help but chase rodents, humans can’t help but chase God. Why not turn to the true God and forget about the lies that lead us in the wrong direction? Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ who died a sacrificial death for all who will accept it as payment for our sin. And whoever will call on Him will be saved and given eternal life. A life of meaning, purpose and hope. A life of love and a relationship with the God of love. It’s in us.

December 15, 2011

Elves on Shelves

by pastortimfowler

It is the latest twist on Christmas chaos, the Elf on the Shelf. My wife even sent me a link to a “Christian version” of it. I am assuming that because she titled the email “blog”, that she wanted me to blog about it, and, since I take other crazy ideas from other crazy people, I guess I should give this a try. But let me say this: If anyone gets upset with me over this one, you are a sick person and you need another hobby besides taking my blogs too seriously.
Why do we need an elf on the shelf? Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good and he doesn’t need no stinkin’ elf to tattle on kids. Its bad enough that you have to worry about that little snitch of a brother or sister, and now an elf? As a former kid, I look at it as an invitation to use firecrackers, like the ones I used on Barbie. And you know what? Barbie never snitched on me or GI Joe again.
My fear with this is 2 fold. First, the possibility that this will catch on and start running year round and taking more money out of the pockets of dads who really just want to keep kids and wives from whining when they could be spending it on a new fishing rod. Second is the fact that too many Christians get their panties in a wad about silly things, including elves on shelves, and feel like they have to do a “Christian” version of everything. They take a plastic Mary and Joseph and they “travel” all around the house. So is it better to lie about elves telling on you or Mary and Joseph traveling around your house?
Look: We have enough Christmas junk as it is. Between trees and lights and wreaths and stockings, and mistletoe, and Rudolf and baby Jesus with all the animals, why do we need anything else? I don’t have room in my attic for that much stuff and by the time I get it all out and put it up around the house, it is time to take it down and try to get it back into the attic. I quit drinking years ago and this, I fear, could cause others to start.
I don’t like elves on shelves and I don’t like the traveling plastic parents of Jesus. It is just one more thing to distract from the true meaning of Christmas and fill our kid’s heads with confusing stories of what the Grinch really stole. However, I do invite the Grinch to steal all the elves and traveling plastic parents of Jesus if they were to ever find their way to my house.
Merry Christmas.

December 14, 2011

Taxes

by pastortimfowler

I will try my best not to be too political on this one, but… I received my property tax notice for some rental property that we have in another county and was shocked to see that our mobile home was assessed at just $2000 less than we paid for it. So I decided that I would make a trip to have that challenged. You can’t do it over the phone or by mail or online, it must be done in person. You can pay online, via mail or phone though. Once there, a 1.5 hour drive, it took 3 minutes for me to fill out a 5 question form and be told that it would take 6 to 8 weeks and that I needed to go ahead and pay it before it was delinquent.
I do not mind paying taxes, they do provide the government with a way to provide the necessary provisions of education, fire and police and the ever important land fill. And, Jesus said that it was appropriate to pay taxes and I want to be a good citizen and a good Christian. So what is my complaint you ask?
My mobile home is like any other mobile home, it depreciates in value every year. Not to mention that even regular homes have depreciated in value over the last few years due to the struggling economy. For the last 5 years my mobile home has gone up in value twice and stayed at that value for three straight years. This is a single wide, 1999 model mobile home. It is not on the same tax bill as the land that it sits on, so that does not account for the value at all. In fact, thanks to our legislators, once I feel like I don’t want to live in or rent this anymore to someone, I can’t even sell it and have it moved. Any mobile home over 10 years old can not be moved in this county so it must be torn down and taken to the land fill I am paying for. So really it looks like it is of even less value since it turned 10 years old, 2 years ago.
We had a friend look up the blue book value of this and it was not even half of what the tax bill claimed it to be valued at. So I asked the lady if they found my claim to be valid and adjusted the value of the home, would they go back a few years and refund me the money that I was overpaying. She said, “Oh no! We can’t do that!” I asked her if I owed back taxes if they would require me to go back and pay them and she said, “Why yes we would.” I said to her, “That doesn’t seem fair now,does it?” To which she said, Sir. Will that be all today?” I told her it would and wished her a Merry Christmas.
I don’t use the land fill in this county. I don’t use the schools in this county and judging from the people who are educated there and now working in the tax offices, they don’t use them either or they aren’t learning much when they do. I rarely complain and pay my taxes on time. I just wish that when I over pay, that they would do what is right and give my money back.
But that is the problem with paying more taxes. The more you pay, the more they keep, and no one gets anymore service from them. The schools are not any better, just ask someone who has kids in them. The police and firefighters don’t get paid what they deserve and the people in the tax offices are not doing their jobs to the best of their ability. But at least people who don’t work will get a check in the mail and people who don’t legally belong in our country will receive a free education and medical treatment. But most importantly, I get to throw my trash in what ever land fill I choose between the two counties that I pay taxes in. Hopefully one day I will get rich and can pay even more taxes to cover the lazy, the illegal, and the bureaucrats who get paid from my hard work through all these years.

December 13, 2011

Omens

by pastortimfowler

By now you must be wondering where in the world do some of these ideas for my blogs come from. It is simple; I have some weird people who go to my church. This morning I get a Facebook tag about omens saying that I should blog about it. I am not sure why, but I thought okay, this could be a sign…get it? Sign? Omen?
As usual, I will start with the definition of the word omen. (noun. anything perceived or happening that is believed to portend a good or evil event or circumstance in the future; portent)
Let me be the first to say that I thought the movie was stupid. Also, I think the word is a weird word. I don’t even like the way it is spelled. Just by changing one letter it could be AMEN! Maybe that is a good direction to go with this blog.
The common fear of an omen is that it points towards the rest of a bad day staying that way or getting worse. We rarely hear of people talking about good omens. It certainly would not have sold a lot of tickets at the box office. People think that if you burn your toast that it is a sign that you will get fired, wreck your car, or be called to jury duty. I don’t believe that is true. Maybe its is a sign of something good. Let me elaborate.
You get up the morning of an important day and because you have been taught that breakfast is an important meal, you began to fix your toast, which by the way, hardly qualifies as a real breakfast. As you are fixing your coffee, which is an important part of a nutritional breakfast, you smell something burning and turn to see smoke rising from your toaster. The toast is burnt! An omen of a disastrous day to come or could this be the start of something really good?
Because the toast is burnt, you spend a little more time thinking about what makes this day so important. Perhaps it is your day to fix cupcakes for your child’s class party, or you have an interview for a job, or you are going to take your pastor a surprise gift, like money, or a free round of golf. You remember that verse from the Bible that you just read, either because you have been reading the Bible or you have been reading this blog. It says, (Acts 20:35) that it is more blessed to give than to receive, so you not only bake the cupcakes, but you grab some more money to give to your pastor, and head off to have a blessed day. If you had not burned the toast, you may have spent the money that you were going to give your pastor on store-bought cupcakes, and felt even worse than before, thus allowing the burnt toast to become an omen of bad things to come.
Romans 8:28We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan. God does not have bad omens for His people. He has only your best interest at heart. Even in the toughest things, God is preparing us for a blessing. Job who lost everything he had, was being prepared to receive double everything that he lost. Peter and the other fishermen were taken out in a terrible storm so that they could see Jesus speak and calm the storm. Onesimus, the runaway slave, was caught and thrown in jail, only to meet the Apostle Paul and find eternal life. Jesus was falsely accused, sentenced to die, and killed for the sins of others, only to rise from the grave and offer eternal life to all who ask.
So…Next time you think that you are getting a negative omen, be creative and change one letter and make it AMEN. With God, all things are possible.

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