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!
August 10, 2012
I love, absolutely love, being a pastor. I get to see people grow and change and learn to be servants. I get to share God’s love with people and see the fruits of my labor. I have been blessed to have a church full of people who are passionate about what has happened to them and are sharing it with others. Even when I think that I want to pull my hair out, and for those who know me, that means things are really stressful and weird, I still love what I do.
This past few weeks has been both stressful and weird. On top of funerals, surgeries, and the other everyday stuff a pastor can deal with, I have been dealing with getting use to having an international student in my house. He is a great kid, so far, and I will get used to having a teenager in my house again, I hope, but this is quite an adjustment for me. I am a creature of habit and don’t mind having a routine that rarely changes. When it does, I have to think that God is trying to teach me something, or, He has decided to show me a sick sense of humor.
In the last couple of weeks I have had a few people tell me the they think that God wants them to leave our church. Before some of you panic, this is not uncommon. I think about leaving at least three of four times a week, and that is in a good week. The reason people tell me that God may want them to leave our church is because they feel like they are not getting along with someone or that things are changing and they don’t like it. I want to address those two reasons for a minute.
First, if there are people who you are not getting along with, consider that God may want you to change something about you, like patience, instead of changing churches, after all, love is patient. Sure I know that most of you are perfect and have no need for change in your own lives, but there are a few who need to learn that God often puts us around people who are different to get us to love those who we don’t like. Luke 6:27, But I tell everyone who is listening: Love your enemies. Be kind to those who hate you. If you are attending a church in hopes of liking everyone you are going to be disappointed. Our command is to love people, not like them. Being the new kid on the block only lasts for a while and then reality sets in. You will find people who disagree and maybe even disappoint you. Those are the ones who challenge you to be more like Jesus, who by the way, does not like everything we do either, yet still loves us. We are not put into the church to be liked or to like everyone. We are put here to serve God and bring Him glory. I am sure glad Jesus did not walk away when He found out someone did not like Him.
Second, is the change thing. Change is always going to make some people uncomfortable. But think about this; if nothing ever changes in church, people are not getting to know Jesus. I would like to offer this suggestion. Rather than getting upset about change, get upset about the status quo. Get upset when you do the same thing week in and week out and never get comfortable with the way things are. The Pharisees got upset because Jesus changed the way they had always done things. Those were the religious guys and the ones who the church way to often resembles. Yet it was their lack of change that had Jesus nailed to the cross. I am very glad that Jesus changed things or I would still be headed to hell. Change is a good thing. Perhaps instead of leaving to find a church that stays the same, you should look and see if it is you that needs to change. I know that I have to evaluate how to change on a daily basis.
Changing the church you attend is often needed. I am not so naive as to think that everyone should stay in the same place all the time. I have changed churches a few times myself. I did know that there was a specific purpose for my change and that it was God that wanted me to go elsewhere and not my own pride or selfishness. But to change churches for the two reasons above is often just that, prideful and selfish. Solving problems instead of running from them helps us to grow and to understand the heart of God better.
If you need to go, I give you my blessing. You will know it is God when you have complete peace about it and can tell anyone who asks the reason without fear or confusion. Fear and confusion are not from God. The very best servants of God, like Paul and Barnabas, left churches to serve elsewhere. Sometimes the best are needed somewhere else to help others grow. That is part of God’s plan and design and I am all for that.
Meanwhile, don’t let Satan cause you to leave where God is working, and He is working at our church. People are coming to know Jesus as Savior every week and others are growing and learning to serve others to help them be more like Christ. Satan is a liar and a punk. He loves complacent churches where nothing ever changes and people rarely get saved. He loves it when we get focused on ourselves and forget that we should be helping others. Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble. He said that people would dislike us and that we should never grow weary of doing what is right. Doing what is right is not always easy. Doing what is wrong often is. Think about it.
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!
July 30, 2012
As a pastor of many years and a church person of many more, there have been a lot of things that have stuck with me. One of them is how church people can get stuck in ruts of complacency. I did a blog last week about getting in a comfort zone. It is a dangerous thing for people who claim to know God to get to the point to where they expect the same ol’ stuff from God. But this is not a blog about being comfortable, it as about expecting more.
This morning I was talking with someone at the church and we were laughing about how busy we have been. At our church it is common to have stuff happening every day of the week. We like to use our building and let others use it. But there are a few things that are unique to our church and that is what we were talking about. In the last week we have not only had our regular schedule of worship and classes, but we have had a wedding, a funeral, baptisms, communion, baby dedication, and salvation. On top of that, we have recently been on missions trips, raised money for other churches, hosting exchange students, helped church members who needed it, helped homeless in our area, and regularly do counseling. This year we have had outdoor movies, tailgate parties, motorcycle rides, scuba trips, and of course the ever popular church work day. All of this leads to bunches of people visiting us for the first time and many deciding to stick around. So much that we have almost reached our capacity on Sunday morning at 10:30am and are preparing to start a second worship time the first Sunday in January 2013. Not to brag too much, but we have had the privilege of seeing over 60 people make a decision to trust Jesus and over 30 of those have already been baptized this year, 2012.
All of this makes for a crazy pace and it often feels like we never know what to expect next. I love it. It sounds crazy at times and would be overwhelming if it weren’t for all the people who help make these things happen. I believe it is all in line with what God wants us to do because of all the ones who come to know Jesus. Far to often churches are fine with the same faces in the crowd every week. We get very uncomfortable if we don’t see strange faces in our crowd.
It is exciting to see what God can do using a bunch of strange people like us. He never asked for us to be better than anyone else, but rather God asks us to admit that we are sinners in need of His help. Then He forgives our sins, if we ask, and helps us to make changes in our lives that please Him. Most importantly, God wants us to love people, just the way they are. When that happens, people get curious and God gets the glory when they get to know Him, through His people.
I am expecting more from God. He never tires of blessing His children. He never gets bored and is never boring. If you have gotten that impression of God, you have been in the wrong place. The God I know and see working in my church is incredible and loving and far from boring. He has plenty of room in His family and in His church for you. Sure, you may have to change your mind on a few things, but that is the same with all of us who call ourselves Christians. Jesus said that He came to give us life and give it more abundantly, and He does not lie, I am expecting more!
May 15, 2012
As a pastor and a Christian, I have heard many criticisms of my faith. I am cool with that, after all, there was a time when I did not believe and offered as bad, if not worse criticisms myself. One of the things I often hear is how cruel and intolerant God and the Christian faith is. I have to admit that most of the harsh things said about Christians are earned by those who call themselves Christians, but God is a different story. He is called cruel and intolerant for a lot of wrong reasons and mostly because people refuse to read the whole Bible and take things in context. I include Christians in this. They are just as bad to quote one liner to point out how bad someone or something is and tell you that you are going to hell. The Bible was never meant to be a book to prove our point by pulling out what fits our argument. It is meant to show how God is God and we are not and that there is morality that matters in this world and those morals are based on who He is and not what we think it should be.
So for a moment I am blogging as if there is no God.
If you disagree with me about anything, you are a scumbag. I make the rules and I am right. Who are you to disagree with me? Nature put me at the top of the food chain and my opinion of what is right is right. Sure, you can have an opinion, but I don’t care what it is and that makes you intolerant because you won’t even try to understand why I am right. I made myself to be the god of this blog and anywhere else I am. My beliefs are right because I believe them.
I, for this blog, now believe in evolution and natural selection. It is good science and it is right. Natural selection is the process by which biological organisms with favorable traits survive and reproduce more successfully than organisms that do not possess such traits, and, conversely, organisms with deleterious traits survive and reproduce less successfully than organisms lacking such deleterious traits. (New World Encyclopedia) Because of this, I must be superior or I would not have survived. Therefore, people who are inferior to me will be or should be dead and cease to exist. This includes homosexuals who cannot reproduce for themselves and therefore must be inferior. They should not survive the evolutionary process and should be dead. Don’t get mad at me, there is no God and I am making the rules. Who are you to try to force your morals on me? You fascist pig. That is real science that backs me up. Only someone who believes in a loving God who provides a way for all of a fallen humanity to be forgiven would ever think that homosexuals have a right to exist on this planet. Real humanists know that evolution is right and never would allow for anything that can’t even reproduce itself to continue to evolve. That would be unscientific and mean that evolution is flawed and cruel. It would mean that weaker things could not continue and have to be replaced by better things, like me.
Okay, back to reality. I do believe in God. Yes, God allows for sin to be punished by death, but at least it is because of a sin of choice rather than being born a certain way that condemns us. Humans are all going to sin. I too have and do still sin. Over time God dealt with sin in different ways. But every time He dealt with sin, He offered a chance to repent first. Read the whole Bible before you challenge me on that one. God never just kills innocent people. God even cares when an animal dies. But nature and evolution, have no conscious or morals and the weak and inadequate will die with no hope. And if there is no God or higher authority, who are you or anyone else to tell me how to live? If there is no God, then I will be God to myself and you can not.
God is love and chose to give a way to be forgiven through the death of His Son. He is holy, we are not. But God made it possible for us to become one with Him. Not through evolution or natural selection, but through redemption. No sin is worse than another. We don’t get to choose what sin is, God does. We don’t get to condemn either, so stop it Christians. We need to remember that we are only going to heaven by the grace of a loving God, not because we are special. And none of us have become perfect in this body. (I am close).
The Bible is a beautiful book of God’s love for a fallen creation and His provision to restore us. He has, does, and will judge sin that is not forgiven, but did, will, and does forgive any and all sin when asked. And there are no bigger sins than another. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
February 29, 2012
The short book of Joel in the Old Testament is a great encouragement to those who may have fallen away from their relationship with God. With only 3 chapters of reading it is full of promised blessings to a nation of people who were far away from where they needed to be in their relationship with God as a people could get. Yet because God desires to love us and bless us, instead of wiping them out, He promises earthly and spiritual blessings for their return to Him.
Most church people know the book of Joel because Peter quoted this verse in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. Joel 2:28After this, I will pour my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. Sadly we don’t read the rest of the three chapters to see what is happening. It is a great promise and exciting to hear that God is gonna pour out His Spirit on us, but somehow, whenever I hear this quoted in the church it is made to sound as if God was doing this because we were doing good things. The promise was made to a people who were in total rebellion and the Spirit of God is given to a bunch of people who still are disobedient and rebellious. We can only do the good things of God with His Spirit and without, we usually get into trouble.
God rejoices in our returning to Him. When we stray, God is grieved. He loves us and desires to have our fellowship. I am not talking about going to church on Sunday fellowship, but rather His desire to have us talk to Him and listen to Him and join Him in the work of making salvation and forgiveness available to anyone who will believe on a daily basis. Sadly though, the church rebels against God as much as Israel did in the Old Testament. But just like His passion to see Israel return to Him, God desires us to return and when we do, He blesses us with awesome love and forgiveness. Then He puts us back to sharing that love with others. That is why He pours out His Spirit on us and allows us to see glimpses of glory through dreams and visions.
What? You are not having those visions of glory? You are not feeling the love? Could it be that you are more concerned with you than with God? Could it be that you want God as your back-up plan in case you fail? I occasionally see a bumper sticker that says, God is my co-pilot. God doesn’t want to be your second in command. He wants to be first. Matthew 6:33 But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you. When we put God first, then we can have the blessings. When we put Him anywhere but first, we can only have the warning of correction if we don’t change our ways, but God always shows the promise of how much it is worth the change to seek Him first and all else after that.
I desire visions of glory. How ’bout you?
January 9, 2012
Lately there has been a lot a media attention about the Denver Bronco’s quarterback, Tim Tebow and his Christianity. It is funny that there has been so much criticism for him making a public display by kneeling in prayer so often. But I don’t think that Tebow should feel special, after all he did not get this thing started, and our modern media was not the first to criticize.
Jesus came on the scene as a guy that few recognized for who he was and what an impact on the world He would have. Even though there were thousands of years of prophesy pointing to His coming, those who knew the prophesies best, did not recognize Him when He made the scene. It was a very religious crowd of people who got the ball rolling toward criticizing Christianity, or in this case Christ. From there it overflowed into society and there has been a steady flow ever since.
I guess some ask, why the criticism? After all, Jesus was not a man who did a lot of intimidation to those He met. He was humble, kind, and compassionate. He was the perfect Christian, duh, and yet He got slammed by those who did not understand Him or like Him. I hear many Christians today saying that the church does not resemble Jesus very much and that is why we are criticized. I will be the first to agree that the church has gotten off track in being what Christ wanted us to be. But, there aren’t any perfect people, even Christians, so that should not be a surprise. But what about someone like Tim Tebow. What has he done that is so un-Christ like? Kneel and give God glory in public? Help little children who are needy? And yet he still gets blasted at every turn.
There is nothing Christians can do to stop this. If we are not Christ-like then we are hypocrites, if we are Christ-like then we are “holier than thou”. So what should we do? How can we stop this injustice and get everyone on our side. After all, Christians have feelings too. (Pardon me as I wipe the tears away and blow my nose.) Hopefully those who know me and read my blog regularly know that there was sarcasm in that and something else is coming. So here it is.
Stop your whining and grow up, Christians. Jesus was not a whiner. He even told us that we would be criticized. He said people would hate us. He said that should not stop us from loving people. He said to love those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you. He never told us that everybody would love us if we just acted a certain way. Christians spend far to much time holding their feelings out for the world to see and hoping to get some sympathy instead of looking for those who need sympathy and running to encourage them. We were not put here to receive praise from humanity, but rather to glorify God in heaven.
Christians are not the only people who get criticized by others. So do any other religions outside the Christian faith, and we are the ones who criticize. If we don’t like criticism, perhaps we should not criticize. I am not saying that we can’t point out differences and truths, but stop the badmouthing for the sake of nothing better to do.
But, there are others who receive criticism regularly too. Politicians, coaches, referees, teachers, lawyers, drivers, children, parents, and people who let their dogs bark all night, to name a few. In other words, Christians are not special because we get criticized by others. So get over it, please. Tim Tebow is a big boy and if he weren’t a Christian he would be criticized for his lack of passing ability, his pour throwing mechanics, and his bad decision making in games. But all that amounts to nothing when you win the game.
Christ has given us the victory! Let that overshadow the criticism.