Vision?

I’ve been thinking about vision lately.  Maybe it’s because our year end is rapidly approaching, maybe it’s because God is impressing me with the need to give some direction to His people in His church.  As I have been thinking and praying on these things, I can’t help but consider some of the thoughts that I have heard and some of the stories as well.  Stories of a pastor getting up in front of his congregation and laying out this bodacious plan for the future, so BIG that only God could do it.  Then I think of how many times we are challenged to do the same in our congregations.  How we judge one another by the vision that we all set forth and how this supposedly reflects on our faith in an awesome God.  But maybe it should be written like this OUR AWESOME FAITH in our God.  Which is it?  Our awesome faith or our simple obedience to an AWESOME GOD?  I have come to the conclusion that there are some really amazing Godless churches out there;  that if you were to use that dream something so BIG that only God could do it, you would have to assume that God has stamped His approval on these “churches”.  The nation of Islam comes to mind.  Scientology comes to mind.  Disney Land comes to mind…

So then what should we be telling our young bright eyed pastors or seminary students?  Don’t have vision?  Don’t have dreams and goals and ideas?  I don’t think that’s the answer either.  I think that the answer lies somewhere between the two.  Get with God.  Don’t worry about whether He says do something so small people will have to listen and look to see it, or do something so big they can’t help but wonder.  However the ultimate vision that our churches need is the Word of God and more of it.  Preachers love to quote Proverbs concerning vision.  ”Where there is no vision the people perish”.  In my study of that Scripture, I have found that the vision that the author is writing about is the Word of GOD. Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish: But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”  The context gives it away if the word study doesn’t.

I recently heard a pastor say something along the lines of Jesus is all about resurrecting dead things.  He said bring your dead things to Jesus.  Relationships, finances, jobs etc… this was popcorn Christianity, a thin veneer of what being a Christian is, relegating God to a Santa Clause.  When we promise things that God has not, we set Christianity up to look no different that the rest of the bull out there.  Sometimes it is God’s will, and even His calling, for us to suffer.  Don’t believe it?  Read the account of Paul’s life,or look closer to home at some suffering faithful and faithfilled saints.  Sometimes God isn’t about impressing anyone with anything; He is found in the small things.  So preacher, when you are considering direction or vision, resist the urge to force something God hasn’t led you to, resist the urge to impress, rest in the Lord’s direction and leading.  If God is in it, it will come to pass, just keep moving on one step at a time. That said, what should we do?  Well I do believe that God gives direction to His pastors for His churches.  We should seek His and not our own, we should be satisfied with what He says to us and we should always remember that it is HIS church and not OUR church.  Lastly we should always anchor the vision in the Word of God.  We should be careful to take our directions from the Vision that He has left us in His Word.

To sum it up in a simple statement, let God lead.  That’s it, just let God lead.  We aren’t a business, we are a body, His body.  Let God lead.



Right or Responsibility

Just a thought on the hot debate over women’s rights.  I am all for them, specifically the unborn female children in the wombs of the women that have participated in the act of creation.

When does our right remove our responsibility from the equation? Why does the unborn woman not have the right to live? She didn’t ask to be created in the womb, but she has been, and deserves to have her rights championed by those with voices.

I understand the pressures that society brings to bear on women these days, and that we all make mistakes, but is a child truly the mistake?  All three of my children were unplanned.  After my first child, who has moderate to severe Cerebral Palsy, Trisha and I decided to stick with her; and not to spread our attention and finances out over other children.

It all comes down to what value has a life? When is it okay to take it?  Is it ever okay to take it? If you go by life begins at a detectable heartbeat, then that would be as early as 5 weeks. Abortion after 5 weeks stops a beating heart.  Of course there is God’s point of view as well…

Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV)

5Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;

Before you were born I sanctified you…

As far as what quality of life will that child have if brought into the world without married parents, a certain amount of wealth etc… I am reminded of the amazing good that Kierstin has brought into this world.  However if you listen to the extreme proponents of abortion rights you find the following…

In the book Practical Ethics, author Peter Singer argues the case for selective infanticide. “At present parents can choose to keep or destroy their disabled offspring only if the disability happens to be detected during pregnancy. There is no logical basis for restricting parents’ choice to these particular disabilities. If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant’s condition than is possible before birth.”

What kind of quality of life does Kierstin have? Well, her life is so much more than what she gets out of it, she has given more than the world could ever give back.   As far as my personal situation, God had other plans and 10 years later Chloe was conceived. She was a puzzle piece that we hadn’t even realized that we were missing.  Then about 5 years later came Nate the Great the son of my old age.  I wouldn’t trade these ‘mistakes’ for the world. The mistake in unwanted pregnancies is not the creation of the innocent child in the womb, it was the mistake of the act of creating them.  When this occurs, responsibility trumps ‘rights’.

In my discussion with a young lady that was concerned about her rights she pointed out that when you find yourself alone in this predicament (of an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy), things that used to be black and white become grey and that no one else should be able to make this decision for her. Unfortunately, there is more than one person in the predicament, there are three. In particular, there is one without a voice… The unborn. The laws of the land ought to protect the weakest among us. The real question is who’s body has more rights? The woman that chose to participate in the act to create life has more responsibility than right. The child, innocent in the womb ought to have the right to live.  

This same young lady agreed that abortion should not be used as a contraceptive and yet chose to argue through the merit of simply making a mistake and having an accident.  What is that if not contraception?  Check out these stats…

WHY ARE ABORTIONS PERFORMED?

  • On average, women give at least 3 reasons for choosing abortion: 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about 3/4 say they cannot afford a child; and 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner (AGI).
  • Only 12% of women included a physical problem with their health among reasons for having an abortion (NAF).
  • One per cent (of aborting women) reported that they were the survivors of rape (NAF).

Having now known a number of women that have been the willing victims of abortion,  I have so much more compassion than ever before. The Lord has a pardon waiting for every sin, every mistake a human being could possibly make (with one notable exception).  Whether she was told, it’s just a glob of tissue or whether she went into the abortion willingly knowing that glob of tissue was a living soul, Jesus death, burial and resurrection can secure forgiveness and deliverance for anyone willing to come.  Our problem in regards to any sin, be it abortion or divorce or drinking or homosexuality is that many of us refuse to look at it for what it is and therefore can never really be free from the condemnation of what we have done.  My dear friends, accept responsibility for what you have done, come to Jesus and live!

As a disclaimer, I will concede abortion for rape, and incest, as these women weren’t willing participants in the creation of the life within their wombs, but I do applaud and I am humbled by the women that carry the child to term .  I must also concede those rare occasions where the life of the mother is at clear and present risk.  This position is one held by perhaps the majority of the nation, it isn’t extreme in the least and yet, it is being painted as such.  I really hope that perhaps the Lord would use this post to encourage those that have been through the horror of abortion, and for those that haven’t perhaps you will think twice.  Then there is the time coming in a few short weeks where all must vote our conscience.  I vote life.  I hope that you will too.  Vote women’s rights if you must, but at least consider all of the UNBORN women’s rights that have no voice and maybe, just maybe be their voice.

God bless.



Someone Else III

I have a few more thoughts on someone else that I  thought I should share with whomever may be reading.  In my last post I mentioned being a blessing to someone else in your church.  That church shouldn’t be all about what you receive but also what you give.

That said there is someone else that needs, desperately needs your attention.  He or she isn’t in your church, meeting under your steeple.  He is someone else.  He or she is  the waitress at the restaurant, the co-worker or classmate.  Someone else needs you because they need HIM.  Like it or not, folks, if you name Jesus as your savior, you are responsible to Him to witness of Him to someone else.  Someone else may be your enemy or they may be your friend; that you are afraid will ditch you if you tell them about Jesus.  Someone else may be someone that is at the end of their rope and they are barely hanging on.  Someone else is divorced, is a single parent, has never been to church or was hurt by a church, someone else is addicted to drugs alcohol or sex.  Someone else is harsh and hard, or soft and kind.  Someone else without Christ is someone else that will spend eternity in hell.  I’ve never read “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybles, but the phrase seems to be just about right to me.  There is someone else that needs Jesus and Jesus has given us the charge to be as He is in this world, so as the Spirit leads, we should just walk across the room and speak of Jesus to someone else.  Oh yeah and when you have done this for a while and you have seen people come to Christ and follow Him… don’t ever stop.

This leads me to one last thing, it really is someone else that this is all about.  It’s all about HIM.  It isn’t about me being a successful pastor or even a successful Christian, it’s about Jesus.  He directs, and empowers and brings circumstances about to challenge us to lean into HIM.  Our church is about Jesus.  Evangelism is about Jesus.  Caring for someone else does two things, it displays Jesus to those looking on or being cared for and as Christ said; when you care for one of the least of the these… you care for Him.  For all of us that find that first step of witnessing of Jesus difficult; remember this, you have someone else in you that will do it through you.  It might be time to read up on the “fear nots” of Jesus.

We live in a what about me culture.  We live in a consumer culture.  What if we all started to think of someone else.  What if we invited THE someone else to LIVE and LOVE through US?  In studying Colossians it seems to me that Jesus is just waiting for us to let Him in and He will change you and then… you will look like someone else:-)



Someone Else II

Been thinking that the last post was just the beginning.  We have many in churches that are focused on themselves and not on someone else.  Today I was speaking with someone else about ministry and relationships and in our conversation I was reminded of my time as a teen in our church. I had been in teens for almost 2 years, Trisha had moved on from our Youth Group and I was bored.  I didn’t like the way the group was being run and being all of 17 or so, I knew better how  to run it.  That was when Ken Bournival my future father-in-law made an observation that maybe I shouldn’t be going to Youth Group for what I could get out of it but for what I could give into it.  I then began to look at my teen leader in a different light.  I saw a man and his wife that were sacrificing their time every Saturday to minister to a bunch of cranky and crabby teenagers.  I determined that night that this ministry would no longer be about me; it would be about someone else.  Even though Rick was my leader, and I was his responsibility, I determined through God’s help that I would be a blessing to him and that when he looked back on his time with me he would have no regrets.

Churches today (even in my church:-0) have developed a me first and consumer mentality.  There are business models for churches and management models for churches and programs for churches and you name it for churches that leave out the fact that we are here for someone else.  A church isn’t a business.  It has business aspects, but it isn’t a business.  Church isn’t the military.  It has aspects of the military, we are a war against the devil and his agenda, but we aren’t the military.  A church is a sheepfold.  A church is a body.  A church is a family.  If you are a Christian, you should be a part of a local church.  You can toss your excuse as to why you aren’t, God established the local church for you and for His glory.  Usually when I have spoken with a person out of church they blame someone else.  The pastor changed the dress standard, the children’s ministry isn’t being run effectively or someone else hurt their feelings.

It’s time for church to be about someone else.  It’s time to look out at the congregation and ministry that God has called you to, and be a blessing to someone else.  Find that frazzled leader and be a blessing to him.  When I determined to bless Rick, I didn’t ask his permission, I didn’t even tell him I was doing anything (I might have been afraid of his mustache at that point) I just did things to ease his burden for.  I showed up, was friendly to new kids, helped clean up and set up and above all I tried to follow Jesus.  Jesus said that we should do the things that he said.  The fact is that we need to be here to bless someone else and that we ought to bear someone else’s burdens, that we that are spiritual ought to restore those that have fallen in meekness and care and gentleness (not seeing a lot of that these days in churches).

So how about it?  Is church and ministry about you?  Or just maybe, is it about someone else?



Someone Else

Just spitballin’ here, but it’s something that I think may help someone out there today, I know it does me. Someone else can be really, really good. Having someone else to blame for my mistakes, or having someone else take my responsibility makes my life so much easier.  It’s so nice to be able to point my finger at someone else and let go of all of my pent up frustration that is spilling over.  Having someone else to handle the burden of all of my past hurts and mistakes, someone else to take the fall or the pain.  I love to have someone else close by that I can just yell at and abuse with my temper and blow off a little steam on.  It really is quite nice… for me… Then again, maybe that isn’t the right use of someone else. Maybe God put someone else in my life for me to bless, and to help me to see from someone else’s perspective.

Someone else can really help me to see clearly when I am emotionally involved.  Someone else can help me to keep a proper perspective.  True that someone else can help me bear my burdens and responsibilities but they can’t have them completely.  My experience has taught me that one of our biggest faults is our inability to see or admit to… our faults, weakness, you name it.  Someone else can help us with that.  But we need to let them in and let them speak.  You see we can all become volatile at times, and lose our ability to reason.  This is where we really, truly need someone else.

Who is your someone else?  How have you treated them?  Are they simply the kind of person that will join you in your delusions or do you have someone else to balance your pain filled opinions?  See, who the someone else is really matters.  We need someone else to tell us like it is, where the dog died so to speak.  We all need someone else to listen to our heartaches without judging, but ready to lend a hand.

One last thought… if you continue to treat someone else like excrement, or continue to blame someone else, or load on someone else your responsibilities, don’t be too surprised to find that you have no one else.

Just Sayin’



Sunday is Coming

This is just so encouraging to me, so I thought I would share it here.



Children in Church

A boy was watching his father, a pastor, write a sermon.

“How do you know what to say?” he asked.

“Why, God tells me,” the father answered.

The boy replied, “Oh, then why do you keep crossing things out?”

ImageMalachi 4:6 ( KJV ) 
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, Matthew 19:13-15 ( KJV ) 13Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.  14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.  15And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
Mark 9:36-37 ( KJV ) 36And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,  37Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

As we look at our three texts, one theme that I believe we should take from them is the fact that children and our treatment of them is important to the Lord.  We see that Jesus was at home with children.  I believe that we can also see that children loved Jesus.

We need to be a catalyst for the community at large for the support and restoration of families.  We need to lead families to Jesus and give them a place to belong.  We need to the kind of church that is relevant to moms and dads and children.  We need to foster an environment of joy and peace for kids and adults together.  We cannot just be a church of adults.  We need both.

  1. I remember talking with a Junior High kid maybe 20 years ago… I was giving him saxophone lessons.  I asked him what he thought about church.  His response wasn’t what I had expected.  At the time we had a playground at our church.   Anytime he or the other Junior High kids went to swing on the swings or generally be around the playground they were chased away be “well meaning” adults.  This child felt like he did not belong.  Now, listen, that does not mean that he was right.  This was, however, telling of the perception that he had…
  2. Being a family friendly church doesn’t mean that should be the church of “everything goes”.  It does mean that we discipline with love and compassion.  We just need to be sure that what doesn’t “go” is reasonable and not stifling.
  3. From our texts today we can also see the regard that Jesus has toward little children.  HE loves them.  This hasn’t changed.  My disabled daughter Kierstin once asked me the question; do you think that Jesus will play with me in heaven?  I believe he will.
  4. Finally we see that when we receive just one of these little children, in Jesus name, we receive him.

To this end I would like to lay out what I believe the Lord is reminding us as churches and pastors.

ImageWe need…NEED to take our cue from Jesus.  We need to love the children in our churches in deed not just in word.  We cannot leave it up to another person to love them for us.  We are the emissary of God to our churches.

Loving children practically speaking will manifest itself in several ways in each church, and it may be different for all of us.  Playgrounds, clubs and schools are wonderful ministries to children, these things show them and our Savior that we care.  However… Pastor, you and I need to be careful to show our love to our churches children.  We need to give them attention, we need them to see that they are not, NOT a bother to us.  They must see Jesus in us.  Do they?

 

 


How He Loves

We love him because He first loved us.  This is the motivation for change.  The agent of change is the Holy Spirit.  I just need to get that out there right away.  The Lord has given us both the motive and the means but now we need to provide the do.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 9:9–10 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: And the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of wisdom… fear is only the beginning.  It should lead us further on is true wisdom.  It should lead us to the love of and for God.  Fear is excellent motivation to inspire us to find the way to appease God, that leads us right to the cross and God’s passionate love for His creation.

The problem that I think we have is that our understanding of His love is limited by our understanding of ourselves.  We humanize God to much; it is understandable, because we tend to want to bring things into our realm.  But in this case we need to get out of our heads and look at the Word and realize that there are some things that without the Spirit we CANNOT understand.  The Bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians that only the Spirit of God can understand God, and only those with His Spirit can understand spiritual things.Isaiah 64:6–7 (KJV 1900) But we are all as an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are as filthy rags; And we all do fade as a leaf; And our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, That stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: For thou hast hid thy face from us, And hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. When we look at ourselves and we see that we are filthy and that even the good that we do is filthy and YET GOD LOVES US and has provided for US we can begin to understand the motivation to do right.

This week I was listening to some testimonies that so impressed me, they were from a former worldly rocker and a Christian musician.  They had both gotten mixed up in the drug scene and became miserable and lost. They were both so humble and powerful in their testimonies.  They had each started out in a very different way and yet ended up in utter hopelessness.  They found that they were in need of something; they were as the Psalmist says in the “miry clay”.  One had deliberately sought out success and women and wine so to speak.  He found that everything he thought was going to be great was the exact opposite.  He was trapped and hated who he had become.  The other, started out in a Christian home and had everything that he needed.  He had spiritual parents that never gave up on him even though he strayed.  He got into college and thought that he could play with fire and not get burned.

Both these men were deceived.  They each recognize this now.  When they were in the mess they each prayed a similar prayer, “God if you are out there, I need you” and “God, I am a mess, do whatever you must to bring me back to you”.  The heavy metal rocker had walked into a church.  It was a church where the worship was genuine.  What he saw while strung out on meth was a bunch of people that sincerely loved God and had joy.  He realized that they had something he needed.  He went home and prayed that prayer.  A few weeks later, he had an encounter with Jesus’s love.  He came to recognize that Jesus is real and that God loved him even in his meth addiction and even in the mess that he was stuck in.The Christian musician had a similar encounter.  God showered His love down on this fallen creature, this distracted believer.  He showed this broken man that He loved him in spite of himself.

In both of these instances it was the humble recognition that God loves ME that led them to change and to love passionately the one that loves them! 

1 John 3:1–2 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

1 John 4:7–13 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”



First Gear

I needed you to know where my mindset is.  It matters not where anyone else is, we’re out of the garage my friend!

First gear and more!

When was the last time you were in a car? Most likely it was today or at the very least this week.  Do you recall the feeling as the transmission worked its way up through the gears?  You could feel it, hear it and experience the results of it.  The car continued to accelerate and onward you went on your journey ever more rapidly to the intended goal.

Our pastor has been preaching on this very subject albeit in regards to our walk with Christ.  Just as the case is with the car our lives need to get out of neutral and on to the real work of getting to our final destination.  And as with the car, we also need to ensure we have our directions set correctly by referring to our roadmap.

The map may be something you don’t use every time but it should be.  Why not use the tools available to ensure you’re on the right course all the time?  Its common sense isn’t it?  Never leave anything in doubt.  That roadmap for our lives is the Word of God.  Read it before you set your course.  Refer to it often to ensure you’re still on course.  Pray about what you’re about to read before you read it.  Let it guide you and you’ll never fail.

Our church has shifted from neutral into first gear.  It’s palpable. It’s evident every day.  We see visitors, new programs, an attitude of love and service prevailing over selfishness and envy.  We have embarked on a wonderful journey that far too many churches and believers never get to experience.  We are fortunate to have a pastor with vision for what we can be rather than what’s good enough.

Let’s all support him and shift into first gear and get rolling.  As with the car, it’s a LOT easier to stop when it’s in neutral than when it’s in gear and moving. The more momentum it builds the harder it is to stop.  No one is guaranteeing a smooth ride throughout however if we ALL do our part to keep focused on God’s will not ours, God’s sufficiency not our lusts, God’s plan and not our schemes, we’ll all arrive at the destination He has for all of us.

So get out of neutral, shift into first gear and get on with it.  Don’t be the one left behind asking where everyone is.  Get involved in the work.  Pray, read your bible, volunteer,  greet visitors, ACT on what God is telling you to do.  Don’t let the rest of us have all the fun!  Onward in our journey, ever vigilant, ever focused!

Sincerely,

Anonymous Church Member



Empty Seats

The following is from a member of our church who has wonderful insight into the inner workings of what we call church.  Please read this with an open heart and maybe let it change how you “do” church!

In every service I see empty seats.  But that need not make me miss the filled seats.  A filled seat falls into one of two categories.  It holds someone I either know or don’t know.  I don’t mean someone I recognize or know their name.  Knowing someone means

I’ve taken the time to talk to them.  Find out about them, their needs, desires and what makes them tick. I have a relationship at some level with them beyond casual acquaintance.

We so often sit through services with many things on our minds.  We consider the message.  We see a presentation.  We enjoy

the music. We do many things some of which have nothing to do with worship. How often do we look around and see the empty seats? How often do we look around and see filled seats too?  Every one of those filled seats holds a person we either know or don’t know.  But how do we see those that we don’t know?

Are we thankful for a new face and thank God for their presence?  I trust most of us do. Do we see a new face and judge what they’re wearing, what they look like and where did they come from?  We’re all guilty of thinking good and bad thoughts.

Now, let’s take it to the next level.  What are the first things you do when the service is over?  Who are those whom you seek out?  Where do you go and why?

Next time  you’re sitting through a service take a look around.  See who the new faces are.  Make a conscious choice to go see them, meet them and start the process of getting to know them.  Ask the Holy Spirit to place you where He wants you to be and say what He wants said.  Actively seek to do rather than watch.  When a church body gets this concept right it won’t take long until there aren’t any empty seats. Then your choice will be whether to attend the early service or the late service.

Try it out. What have you got to lose?  I think you’ll find the only things you lose is one more empty seat in your church.

Sincerely,

Anonymous