October 18, 2012
Mark 9:33-34 33 Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was at home, he asked the disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 They were silent. On the road they had argued about who was the greatest.
Ministry is a beautiful thing. It allows the church to help those in need. It is a source of great joy. Unfortunately it can be a source of arguing and troubles. No, this did not start with my church or your church or even your grandparent’s church, it started with the very first people who were followers of Jesus. (see above)
The reason this happens is that we forget to put self aside and be more considerate of those in need. The Apostle Paul said that he died daily to himself so that he could live daily for Christ. Far to often Christians forget that this is needed in our lives. We forget that once we are saved, we become workers with Christ for God. We are to become like Christ to people. Christ died for people and lived for God’s will to be done.
The church is not a place to complain because someone else did something to help another. It is a place to rejoice because someone was helped by Jesus and Jesus happened to use one of His own. It is a place to find joy that others are ministering to those in need, even if we can’t or aren’t part of it. Jesus knows our hearts. He knows if we are doing things out of love or for self glory. I trust that and let Him worry about it. Meanwhile, if a person in need gets help and it is from a believer, I give God the glory.
When these disciples were arguing about who was the greatest, they were as far from being Christ-like as they could possibly be. Jesus goes on to tell them that they must be childlike, not childish, in order to become great. Children are obedient. He later tells them that if they want to be great they need to become servants. Servants don’t think that they are great, they too are obedient.
As we grow as Christians we must always be aware that not everything can be explained. Not everything can be communicated. And not everything is meant for us to do. I am sure that others who saw Peter walk on water were a bit jealous that it wasn’t them. I am sure that some may have wished it was them who received the vision of the book of Revelation. But the important thing to remember is that the people who God wanted involved were involved in the things that He wanted done. It just is not about us once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
We must also remember that others are watching how we handle adversity. Every Christian has someone watching how we handle things to see if they want to follow us or not. It is not about them following you or me, but are we following Jesus and therefore they should follow us. Some may see our attitude and be offended because they don’t understand why we are upset. It may involve a weaker person and our reaction causes them to fall away. So be careful how you react to things.
Remember that children and servants are to be obedient, not important. Jesus is the important one and so is that person who needs help. We don’t want to hurt someone who is a weaker and younger believer.
Matthew 18:6-7 6 “These little ones believe in me. It would be best for the person who causes one of them to lose faith to be drowned in the sea with a large stone hung around his neck.
7 How horrible it will be for the world because it causes people to lose their faith. Situations that cause people to lose their faith will arise. How horrible it will be for the person who causes someone to lose his faith!
October 10, 2012
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?
September 25, 2012
The big talk today is about the horrible calls by the replacement refs in this years NFL season, especially last night’s game that cost Green Bay a win. I have to admit that it was one of the most bizarre finishes to a game that I have ever seen. But, what do you expect when you try to replace the best with anything else? There is a reason why the NFL refs are there. It is the same reason the players are there; They are the best at what they do.
I hate to jump on people who are only doing the best that they can. I absolutely do not believe that these refs purposefully made bad calls. After all, many of them are trying to get their big break in order to make it to the big leagues. They are performing to the level that most of us will never achieve and they are doing it under a whole lot of pressure. Even the best make mistakes and blow it from time to time. I guess the real question should be, what is going on and how do you fix it so that the best come back?
But here is the point that I want to make. Are you training someone up to do what you do? Now I am not talking about everything being replaced such as a mom or dad or spouse, but rather in your job or at church or in something that you are responsible for accomplishing.
Many times when I counsel couples, they say stuff like, “he never helps with the children” or “she never helps with the yard work”. Could it be that they don’t know how? Often after the loss of a loved one to divorce or death, there is a spouse who does not know how to pay the bills or get groceries or take care of the kids, so maybe we are talking about everything being replaced. I know that at church there are lots of times when someone is out due to illness or vacation and no one knows what to do in their absence. So we tell everyone at our church to train up their replacement.
Maybe you are not training someone because you feel like if you are replaced, you won’t feel needed. But if you are doing it for that reason, then maybe your motivation is wrong. I appreciate it when someone in a position that is vital to things going smoothly is out and I don’t notice it because the person that filled in for them did an excellent job. Even if they did not do the job to the same level of expertise, the fact that they were there and could do the job at all is awesome. And, over time, they will get better and we will grow and there will be an opportunity for more people to do ministry and more people will be needed to fill in. That is healthy.
But far to often, we look at things with the glass half empty mentality. We should start being happy that there is someone who can ensure that things continue rather than come to a screeching halt. Maybe we need to be grateful for replacement refs because we are football fans rather than football critiques. Maybe we should be grateful when our spouse or kid cuts the grass even if they missed a spot. Maybe we should be thankful for supper being cooked, even if it doesn’t taste like mom’s cooking. Maybe we should be fans of those who do the job to the best of their ability and save the criticism for those who never lift a finger to help.
Remember that all of us were once less than proficient at what we do. There has only been one perfect person and He got nailed to a cross. But He also started training up some replacements who we all know don’t do it as well as He did. But God is our biggest fan and really loves the fact that the game did not stop when Jesus was away. Instead of stopping the game, He made a way for us to keep on playing.
So as we wait for the real refs to return, lets enjoy the fact that at least we get to watch the game. At least someone was trained well enough to fill in. At least someone trained the replacements well enough to allow for them to step up when others were stepping down.
Please Lord, let me be thankful for those who are doing the best that they can and let me be more of a fan than a complainer.
September 11, 2012
THANK YOU!!! This goes out to all who serve the public. Military, police, firefighters, medical first responders and anyone else who puts their own well-being on the back burner in times of others needs. This has been happening for years, well before the attacks on 9-11, 11 years ago. People have been serving the public and sacrificing long before this happened and sadly, it took a tragedy like this to have our eyes opened to these daily heroes.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center building. I was backing out of my driveway when the radio broke the news that an unknown explosion had taken place in NYC and that early reports from witnesses said it was a plane that had crashed into the building. I immediately pulled back into my drive and went in to watch the news, only to turn on the TV in time to see the second plane crash into the second building. It was then that everyone realized that this was not a terrible accident, but was probably something deliberate. As I watched in horror, the third and forth planes crashed and even more lives were lost and I began to pray for my wife who was in Charlotte. I did not know if this was something that was going to happen all across the country or was confined to a region. All I knew is that my wife was in a city with tall buildings and I was scared.
The news continued and I saw the first tower fall. Something inside of me knew that thousands of people were now dead. I began to pray and to cry and as I did, it was not long before the second tower fell and the pain inside grew worse. My only comfort was that I had heard from my wife and that she was okay. But meanwhile, I could only think of those who had died and those who were going to mourn for their loss.
Prior to the towers collapse, I saw footage of police and firefighters and EMS workers running into the burning buildings. I was overwhelmed with pride for their heroic actions. I thought about how many times they must have done that and how many times the lives of those in peril were saved because of their actions. This time, although there were some who made it out and the heroics were not for nothing, many never made out, including those who were going in to rescue the perishing.
Since that tragic day, as often as I can, I say thanks to everyone who serves the public as a first responder or military. If I have the money, I buy their lunch. If I have the time I tell them how much I appreciate everything they do on a daily basis and I shake their hands. I pray for their safety as often I they come to mind in my daily prayer time. I still weep when I hear of one of them loosing their life while trying to save someone else. I get really angry when I hear people who unfairly criticize police, firefighters and EMS as well as the military. Like in every other walk of life, there are those who don’t deserve the honor of the job because of abuse or corruption, but over all, those who work in these jobs are amazing people who deserve nothing but praise and prayers.
So again I say thanks to all who serve in the unselfish and sacrificial ways as public servants and military. Your sacrifices are known by many and appreciated and never forgotten. I pray for your safety and your families and for God’s grace on your lives. 9-11 is a constant reminder of the fact that there is evil in the world, but it is an even greater reminder that Christ’s words are forever true. Matthew 23:11-12
11 The person who is greatest among you will be your servant.
12 Whoever honors himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be honored.
August 6, 2012
I feel like my head is spinning. The last week has been crazy. Between traveling and church stuff and international students invading my house and little rug-rats all last week and now my friend from the Philippines is here, I can’t catch my breath. But wow it has been good. I have seen God at work in so many ways. He even found time to give me a sanity break with my wife tonight.
It is hard to understand how people can say that they get burned out with God.
I understand that you can get burned out if you are serving your church, but maybe that is the problem. Maybe you are getting burned out because serving the church is not always serving God. (Gasp!) That’s right, I said it. Serving God and serving the church can be two different things. The church has a tendency of becoming overburdening while Jesus said His yoke was easy and burden was light. God does not cause burn out.
Now this does not mean that you will never have problems if you serve God. But God promises that when we are being productive Christians and serving Him that we will have joy and peace and love and it will be rewarding and there is nothing to get burned out about that. We have been called to ministry. The word minister means to serve. We have also been called to do all things like we are doing them for God. So if you are serving God in whatever you do and you remember that He is the one rewarding what you do, it makes it easier to serve with joy and avoid burnout.
If you are one who is feeling burn out, then maybe it is time to spend a few minutes alone with God to ask why. Be honest about what you are doing and feeling and listen for that still, small voice to say that it may be time to change. It may be time to change your attitude. Perhaps you are doing what God wants, but you are not doing it for His glory. Perhaps what you are doing is not truly a ministry. Maybe it is a church position that hasn’t changed in 100 years and is no more a ministry than clipping your toenails. FYI, I grow mine really long before cutting them and then donate them to people whose toenails fall off, kinda like the hair thing people do. Perhaps you are doing too much and you need to let someone else serve. Here is another FYI…your church will not fall apart if you stop doing something.
Burn out can happen to anyone who is not serving God or serving in a ministry of God. Feeling burned out is like when your car begins to backfire. It is a warning sign that something is wrong. The number one reason people’s cars quit running properly is because they don’t read their owner’s manual and follow the instructions for preventive maintenance. The reason Christians face burn out is because they don’t read the Bible and follow its instructions. So if you are listening for God’s voice and you don’t recognize it, it might be time to familiarize yourself with what God sounds like through reading His word.
Don’t burn out! Get fired up!
October 3, 2011
Incredible would be the best word I could use to describe this past weekend. Our church had its annual lady’s retreat and about 30 of our ladies spent the weekend in Tybee Island, Ga. From the pictures I saw on Facebook and the short conversations that I had with my wife, they had a great time and I am sure once I hear the details it will only get better.
Of course when I talk about 30 women being away for the weekend, that meant that they are away from our church too. On most Sunday mornings we will have about 140 people attending and that includes an average of about 30 kids also. So if you take 30 people away from our normal Sunday morning it is noticed simply by looking at the crowd size. But we notice it even more because many of these ladies serve in our church in vital areas. Children’s director, teachers, greeters, check in stations for kids, just to name a few. Add to the ladies being away the fact that we had our audio/video guy and his wife out and about 12 other folks who were away, and it was really noticed that people were missing.
I have to say that rarely do we have people who just lay out of church. The folks here have taken an ownership in what God is doing and for whatever weird reasons, they seem to enjoy coming. Mostly because people find God here, but secondly, they have real friends that come here. Not just people we see once a week, but people that we hang out with and have a real relationship with. So I am not the type of pastor who has to guilt people when they are away and usually when they are away it is for a good reason, not just laziness and lack of desire to come. Have I told you lately that I am a very blessed pastor? God has allowed me to serve a bunch of folks who are real and excited about knowing God.
With so many people away this Sunday I was expecting the worst. Although my wife assured me that things were well taken care of, I couldn’t help but be skeptical. All the other people who were gone had also assured me that they had things covered and that nothing would be missed. They were right. Although the people were missed, things went over without a hitch. I was so amazed, and I really shouldn’t be. That is just what kind of church I serve.
I also thought that because so many of the regular folks were out that the crowd would be rather puny, but it wasn’t. Sure those who are here regularly could tell that people were missing, but only because we knew who they were. We had plenty of folks and if those 40 plus people had shown up we would have been near capacity. Boy, listen to me whine.
My sermon this week was on using grace as the foundation to build your Christianity on. Grace is favor given, not earned. God just loves us and when we seek Him, He gives us grace and therefore we have favor in His sight. Being in His good grace is a special thing that anyone can experience, but sadly too many people don’t because they pervert who God is. God is love, not someone waiting to crush you like a bug when you screw up. Sure, if you continue to deny Him and never ask for His favor, He can and probably will prove He is able to squash you like a bug, but that is not His goal. His grace is an awesome thing that allows us a very personal relationship with the Creator of the universe.
Because of God’s grace, six people became God’s children this weekend. It is not uncommon for our church to see 3 or 4 people each week trust God, but this week with a lot of folks gone, God showed us that He never misses hanging out with people who welcome Him. As we were finishing our morning worship time I informed people that we would be filling the horse trough for baptisms next Sunday because there were 2 or 3 people who had asked about it. As the day progress and we came back for the evening Bible study, about 12 more people had contacted me about getting baptized next week. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see 20 people baptized next Sunday.
If you don’t consider yourself a Christian, maybe you find this hard to get excited about. But it is what God gets excited about. He is not excited about money or buildings or how important a person thinks they are. God is excited about people knowing about His great love and sharing it with others. So if you are not a Christian, first let me thank you for reading my blogs. Secondly, if you live in the Rock Hill SC area, come next week and see all these baptisms and meet some people who will be surprisingly a lot like you. Either way, the first visit is free and if you don’t like it you don’t have to come back.
But WOW!!! This was an incredible weekend. I will be so glad to get my wife home and all those ladies who serve all over our church. They should be really stoked for next weekend. Holy Kaw! Next weekend could be better than this one!
September 20, 2011
Reading the New Testament letter of Philemon that the Apostle Paul wrote to his friend is quite an eye opener. It is one of the shortest “books” of the Bible and yet there is so much to learn from it. I thought I would share some observations that I saw.
This is a letter that Paul wrote to a friend while Paul was in prison. It is near the end of his life and yet he still seeks every opportunity to encourage others and share Jesus with anyone that will listen. He opens the letter by addressing Philemon and his wife and son who had a group of folks that had church in their house. He expresses his passion for their faithfulness and encourages them to keep up the good work. There is no whining about being in prison and how unjust the court system was, only praise and admiration for what Jesus was doing in his life and theirs. He called Philemon not just a fellow worker, but a brother in the faith and Paul took this relationship very serious.
Philemon had a slave that had run away by the name of Onesimus. This slave was arrested and thrown into the same jail where Paul was held as a prisoner. I am sure that most of the guys in prison were all proclaiming their innocence and maybe Onesimus was too, but Paul was focused on one thing. Sharing God’s love with others and he did this with the slave and fellow prisoner. Once he was convinced of this man’s position in Christ, Paul obviously told him that He needed to go back and make things right with his old master and that was the purpose of this letter.
He tells his good friend that his old slave was no longer a disobedient slave but now a brother in Christ. Paul instructs Philemon to receive his old slave as if he were receiving Paul himself. He tells him that if there is a debt that is owed to charge it to him and to treat him not like the criminal that he was, but as a brother that he had become.
Isn’t it amazing that whatever we use to be before knowing Jesus as Savior is totally wiped out in Christ and we become new people? If only we acted that way toward others instead of only expecting it for ourselves. Paul met a man who was a runaway slave that by law could have been put to away for a long time or in the worst of cases be put to death, and saw someone who desperately needed Jesus, not a Judge. He didn’t just lead him to Jesus, but he took actions to help him live a life pleasing to Jesus. He didn’t worry about what others would think if he helped a criminal, but thought about what God would think if he didn’t help a sinner in need of a Savior.
If we could all look at the need instead of the problem. If we could all look at a potential brother instead of a potential bother. If we could all see people like Paul saw people and like Jesus sees people, then maybe more people would turn to Jesus, than turn to their troubles of the past and face them as a pardoned criminal, grateful to the Righteous Judge, who gave us over to the Perfect Savior. Maybe more people would see our forgiveness and our compassion and become forgiving and compassionate themselves.
Funny how this slave of a master was set free to become a servant of The Master.
April 4, 2011
Last week I asked for ideas for my blog and someone named Kim gave me this one.
She thinks that the role of a pastor has changed over the last 20 years or so. I disagree. Okay, let me explain. The role of a pastor has never changed because it is one that is defined by God. His word and His job description will not change no matter what century we live in. Now I know what Kim is trying to get to, I am one of the few who can actually understand her. She sees a shift in the way pastors are being perceived and many are carrying out their responsibilities. There is a new wave of leadership in the church and many are taking a very open change in what tradition defined as the role of a pastor.
A pastor has always been closely related to a shepherd. In fact the word pastor comes from the Greek word meaning shepherd. These days we have no idea what that looks like because folks don’t have flocks of sheep everywhere like they use to. That has allowed the job description of a pastor to be manipulated by people and thus pastors have become what man wants not what God intended. So let me tell you some stuff that a shepherd did.
I guess the best description to some it up is this: The shepherd is to provide a safe, healthy environment for sheep to reproduce.
Safe. That means watching out for wolves and lions that want to kill the young and the weak. In a church environment these wolves and lions often take the form of control hungry people. They want the congregation to think that following one leader is bad and instead they split the church into smaller groups and tell them how wrong the shepherd is, thus leading them away from good food and fresh water and the protection of the shepherd.
Healthy. This means ensuring good food and enough food for all to eat. The right food for the young and old alike. Fresh water for all, free of the stuff that hides in stagnation and causes the sheep to puke the good stuff up because of the unseen bad stuff they ingested. And sometimes the worst danger to the entire flock is another sick sheep. Left to mingle with the rest of the flock, that one sick sheep will infect the whole herd if not separated until the sick one gets better. And yes, sometimes that even means permanently separating the sick one from the flock.
Finally, shepherds don’t grow flocks by purchasing more sheep from somewhere else. If you have a safe and healthy flock they will do what God designed them to do. They will reproduce. Healthy, safe sheep love to make babies. They fulfill something that God puts inside of them and the flock grows.
That is what the shepherd does; provides a safe, healthy environment for sheep to reproduce.
Today, there are some pastors who have become business men, sheep shearers, or vets that make the old sheep comfortable until they die. These are not pastors.
But I am thrilled to say that there is a growing desire to be a shepherd again in the church. Pastors are letting others worry about the things that were drawing them away from being shepherds of the flock and learning a valuable lesson…When the shepherd provides a safe, health environment and sheep are reproducing, the sheep love the shepherd and will follow him where he leads.
It is not complicated and it works. It is God’s design and that is why it works.
To my flock I say, I will do my best to keep the wolves and lions away and make sure that there is good food and water and that your health is good so that you can, eat, drink, and make babies!
February 15, 2011
It has been so many years that I don’t remember the last time my wife or I got the flu. But… today the doctor confirmed it…she has the flu. I get paranoid when she gets sick. I will not sleep in the same room and I don’t like being in the same room with her. I use lots of Lysol and wash my hands and take vitamin b and c and other letters in the alphabet. I go out of my way to not get what she has. Here is the bad part. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and you guessed it…I kissed her.
So here is what I am thinking. I want to be a good husband. I want to serve her and take care of her, and at the same time minimize my contact with her. One good thing is she wants to be left alone for right now. I am sitting outside writing this blog.
Jesus said the greatest among us will be those who serve others. I want to be great! I just want to stay healthy. How do doctors and nurses do it? Day in and day out they help sick people. They give them meds and fluff the pillows and help them to the bathroom. These are some great people; real servants.
Jesus touched the sick and the lame and healed them. I would have been more of the type to speak the word with authority and heal them from a distance. I would have sent one or two of my disciples if someone sick needed hands to touch them so that they get better. Maybe that Judas guy; he could touch the sick people.
I guess that is probably one of the reasons God did not chose me to be the Savior. Instead he chose me to be a pastor, who has to visit people in hospitals where there are lots of sick people. Wow, God has a strange sense of humor. And now He has given me a sick wife. The flu, but just the regular flu. Good thing it is not the Swine flu…or is it? Could this be the pandemic we were all waiting for? Could I be the one that nurses her through this horrible time and become a hero to all mankind?
Oh yeah, there is another reason God did not chose me to be Savior, you must be humble.
So here is my test. To be a servant to my sick wife. To not worry about if I get sick but to worry about her getting better. To make her soup when she is hungry and cold and to give her Sprite when she is thirsty and hot. To say soft and loving words of encouragement and pass the test as the greatest servant to ever walk the earth! Oops, there goes that humility thing again.
I would appreciate the prayers for her to get better and me to be great the way God wants me to be great; as a servant.
Now where did I put that Lysol?