Friday, May 16, 2014

Why do we do this?


If you were to ask a minister why he signed up for this “job” of being a minister, what would he say?  Would he ever encourage his son to follow in his footsteps?  If he had it do over again, would he?

What is it that causes a man to follow a career path where he is only as good as his last sermon?  Where if he really listens to the Spirit and preaches what is needed he is often hated because many don’t want to hear their failings.  If he somehow doesn’t make enough hospital or home visits, or phone calls, he is regarded as a failure.  He meets couples at the brink of divorce and takes on their pain and hurt in order to help them find the ability to let God put it back together again.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. 

Why would someone want to take on a position where everyone has their own opinion of how he should do his job, and what his priorities should be, and no two people agree on any one thing except that he could and should do better.  What is it that causes a man to want to accept the task of taking different generations, races, cultures, ages and sexes all together into one group and finding a way to help them all mold together even though they all have different preferences, opinions, and purposes?

Is it the constant criticism?  Maybe he enjoys being told that the music is terrible, or that the services are not what they are looking for.  Quite possibly he enjoys being told that parishioners are leaving because they aren’t being fed.  Could it be that he secretly likes to be away from his family far more than is healthy and doesn’t want to be at home?  Or the fact that his wife cries herself to sleep many nights because of the way either she or her husband are being treated or talked about?

What causes a man to lose sleep because he is up all night praying for the Church, for the lost, for saints who are dying, for those who are gossiping and tearing the church apart, and for his family that is being torn apart at the seams because of the seeming insensitivity of the very people he is serving?  Maybe it’s the great pay and/or physical benefits. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Getting paid anything for taking the message of Jesus to a lost and dying world is a bonus, however unfortunately sometimes the ones who are supposed to be on God’s team make being a minister a very thankless and difficult job. 

Maybe he does this, because he just can’t see any other way to do what he wants to do the most and that is to reach people for Jesus.  His life will never be the same because of the caring hand of the Master and more than anything he wants everyone he knows to find that same life changing relationship.

I write this for one purpose and one purpose alone.  I want you to put your thinker on today, that’s it.  Think about the minister or elder or volunteer servant who has made a huge impact in your life and tell him/her thank you.

Think about ways you can make their lives easier not more difficult.

Think about praying for them on a regular basis (and do it)

Think about reaching out to their spouses and children, and not in a judgmental way but in a loving gesture.

Think about what you say in regards to those who are putting their lives on the line for the Kingdom of God every day, before you say it.

Think about (really think hard) what it would be like to be in their position and have mercy on them, show grace to them, and forgive them for their failures w/o holding it against them.
 
May you be blessed today as you think of those who have served you in this capacity at different times in your life.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Which one are you?


You’ve met them, you’ve had your perspective on life changed by them (sometimes good sometimes bad), maybe you’ve even been one of them a time or two.  I’d like to introduce or re-introduce to you, some church members we’ve all known throughout the years.
Anonymous Al

Anonymous Al – You know the one who writes letters to the leadership complaining about everything but never gives you his name. He never has to answer for the damage he inflicts by his comments and negativity.

Billy the Bully
Billy the Bully – Yep the church is full of bullies but Billy outshines them all.  He is the loudest, most demanding, not just with his voice but with his actions.  If he doesn’t like something he removes it, if he thinks something is a terrible idea he sabotages it.  It’s his way or the highway and to be honest, churches do themselves a favor when they show him the highway.

Wanda the wet blanket – Ah yes dear Wanda, she’s been in the Church for 50 years and any new idea is either doomed for failure because “we tried that and it didn’t work”, or “we’ve never done it that way before”.  Dear Wanda, “bless her heart” loves to throw a wet blanket on any idea that is presented.
Backstabbing Gummie Bears?

Barbara the back-stabber – Whenever there is gossip flying around or dissension or fighting of any kind, you just know that it has either been instigated or fueled by this woman who just seems to love making everyone as miserable as she is.

But to be fair the Church is full of the following as well.

ERIN
Erin the encourager – Every church has one.  Erin is always smiling, always building others up even when she has her own struggles.  You never hear anything but positivity come from her mouth.

Harry the helper – Need a lawn mowed, some snow shoveled, roof fixed, a leaky faucet replaced, etc., Harry is your man.  This brother isn’t as young as he used to be but it never stops him from lending a hand, no matter what it does to his back.

Betty the baker – While her talents don’t always help with our bulging bellies she just knows how to spoil us.  Always there with a plate of brownies or a cherry pie.  She loves to sweeten lives by the sweet tooth and does it with a smile.
 
Modern Day Epaphrus!

Pete the prayer warrior – When he says, I’ll pray for you he means it.  This isn’t the casual mention of you in a 2 minute prayer, this is him wrestling in prayer on his knees, before God, tears flowing down his face, on your behalf.  Epaphras in Col. 4:12 has nothing on Pete.  He loves God and he loves you, and he loves to go to God for you.

 
Here’s a few more that you can use your imagination to come up with descriptions for – Timothy the tightwad, Sallie the sniper, Gideon the Giver, Bob the builder, Sammie the smiler, not to be outdone by Freddie the frowner.

God give us all grace as we try to allow His Spirit to flow so heavily in our lives that he takes our natural strengths and weaknesses and allows us to be like Jesus rather than like the first four on this list.

So finally, which one are you?  Which one would other people say you are?

In Christ,

Lance

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Identity


What is the first word you think of when you think of me?  Go ahead, say it out loud, even if it’s not complimentary.  What do you see when you look at me?  Do you see a 40 year old who is bigger than he should be, has less hair than he used to?  Maybe all you see is the skinny jeans J or the clothes that I wear.  Maybe you see a preacher or minister or pastor or whatever word you want to use. 

Do you know me for who I am, what I do, what I wear, how I act in stressful situations, or any mix of all of these things?  What do we talk about when we converse?  Is it the weather, or sports, or politics, or do we just sit around and gossip? What at am I really asking? What is my identity as far as you are concerned? 

Something I’ve come to discover in life is that we are not good evaluators of ourselves.  I see myself a certain way, but you don’t necessarily agree.  I see what I’m thinking, or how I’m feeling or what my motivation is when I do what I do, but all you see is what I did, whether good or bad.  My identity in your eyes is shaped not by my good intentions but by my actions. In the justice system they call it evidence.  The tangible evidence of who I am is there for the whole world to see.

It seems to me that we spend a lot of time trying to treat the outward evidence of who we are (this is why I got angry, that is the reason I don’t treat you right, I acted poorly because I was tired, etc.) instead of allowing the glory of how we were created establish our identity from the inside out.  What would your life look like if you allowed your Creator to shape your identity? You have a God given Identity that is just begging to come out and make an impact on this world.

Think about it, when was the last time you taught your lungs to breathe or instructed your heart to beat or gave your brain a step by step instruction of how to process thoughts and memories and turn them into words?  You are a glorious miracle of God and although we all pretty much breathe the same way and our hearts beat in similar patterns, we each  have a unique DNA that God put in us when we were formed in the womb.  Ps 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

Every day the Spirit of God is at work shaping you into who God made you to be.  The question is are you allowing Him full access into your heart.  Jesus said that out of the heart the mouth speaks, He also said to clean the inside of the cup first. My God given identity continues to take shape when I allow Him to transform me from the inside out.  When I give full access to the Potter to have Him shape me, and form me, He gives me an Identity centered in Jesus Christ my Lord!

Isa 64:8 And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. NLT  Identity is not just a hot topic, it is the essential core of Christianity – Redeemed – Forgiven – Blood Bought – In Christ (and that pretty much sums it up)
Lance

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Teen or Monster?


It’s coming! Only five years from now I will be a parent to a teenager and call me na├»ve but I can’t wait.  I can’t wait for the out of control hormones, the push to be independent w/o really knowing what that means, the struggle to find who he is while still being under the wing of our parenting, the pimples, the crushes, the homework that I have no clue how to help because it’s been too long.

What will his first job be?  Will he be ready to get his driver’s license at 16 or will he procrastinate like his father did? His first date, I wonder who she will be?  I’m not in it so right now I can dream about it and be excited, even while being a bit terrified. Okay, hugely terrified. J So yes I know it’s going to be harder than I’ve ever imagined but I can’t wait!

Here’s what I want to say to anyone who is willing to listen.  If you have a teen right now please enjoy them.  I know they are different than what you were at that age, but your parents said the same thing and it probably irritated you.  In this age of technology it’s easy to think that they don’t use their imagination enough, they aren’t outside enough, they are on their phones too much and you can’t even keep up with their apps.

Have you tried?  Have you learned what Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and all the others are?  Do you get involved in their lives (to the extent that they desire) and know who they are?  They aren’t just monsters that live under your roof that you can’t wait to get rid of.  They are people with a future, a past and a present.

So rather than be on a soapbox especially since I do not have a teenager just yet, let me implore you to enjoy your teenager.  Let them know that you are there to listen when they need you, there to instruct them, to tutor them, to guide them, yes even to discipline them when they need it.  The point is you are there for it all, not just the parts you want to be or just when you have to do it, or when you’ve reached your boiling point, but always there to enjoy life with them.

Enjoy them, love them, train them, dream with them, never ever give up on them (see prodigal son) and watch them grow!

P.S. I’ve been on the other side as a youth minister and have heard what the teens want most from their parents, and trust me it isn’t always what they tell you because they are afraid you might not be willing to listen so they often hold back. 
P.P.S – Be careful what you say when you’re “joking”.

In Christ, Lance

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Butterfly Transformation


It’s the typical feel good Disney story, the awkward, socially unacceptable ugly duckling becomes the beautiful princess.  Cinderella, the Princess Bride, the Beauty and the Beast etc. And it’s not always the beautiful woman, sometimes it’s an awkward boy who becomes the sports hero, or an animated animal who’s shy and becomes a leader.

Stories of transformation sell, especially if they are based on real life.  The Biggest Loser takes someone who is really struggling and even in danger of losing their life and gives them a chance to succeed in life.  A child becomes an adult in a span of some 18 years, seeds become plants or flowers over a couple of months, and a caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly in about 10 days.

But here’s the thing, that caterpillar is still there, so is the awkward kid, or the fairy tale character.  The outward change is really a compliment of what was already on the inside.  And it’s no surprise because that is the way that God works as well.  He creates us all of us unique, with different personalities, character traits, outward features, skills, talents, abilities.  But none of that matters in regards to the transformation I want to talk about today.

1 Co. 15:50-57 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.  But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.
53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: "Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. NLT

That is why this transformation is such a beautiful picture.  It combines the human stories with the beauty of a butterfly in flight.  An older gentleman whose time had come, an unborn baby who never got to experience life on earth, a child who was born with a terminal disease and never lived to be a teenager, the young lady killed in a car crash, those who fought and eventually lost their battle with cancer, the soldier who died protecting our freedoms.  They all have one thing in common.  A spirit that lives on beyond the grave.  And for the believer, death is the opportunity for the most amazing butterfly transformation ever and it’s a permanent one.

Grieving takes many steps and appears in many forms and I’m not here to condemn or judge anyone’s reaction to their loss, but the Bible tells us something about hope.  I’d like to end today with this Scripture.  1 Thess 4:13-14 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
The chance to see our loved one transformed into a beautiful butterfly figuratively speaking is an anticipation that helps us deal with the pain we currently feel.  May you gain some hope from these words.

In Christ, Lance

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Thanksgiving Chair (My Recliner)


My Recliner
  
We purchased it a couple of months ago, but it isn’t my first chair.  The first chair I remember loving with a deep intimate love j/k was an old rocking chair with a matching ottoman.  It was really old but had been restored and was given to me by an older couple from England whom I had recently baptized into Christ.  I loved that chair but my wife didn’t.  The second one was years later and it was overstuffed leather and it was cozy.  When I reclined in that thing it practically swallowed me up, but soon it became cracked, wore out, and ugly (at least in my wife’s opinion). 

The third one was fairly non-descript but served it’s purpose and was still all mine.  And then came the Super Bowl of Recliners, the Mack Daddy of comfortability, the mother of all recliners. It’s the perfect size, incredibly comfortable, has a couple cup holders, enough room to store my laptop or cell phone or tablet.  It has a USB port to plug my cell phone in, a back massager, and when I tip back in that thing with my electric blanket covering me, I forget that it’s stinking cold outside and I am in heaven.
Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t shield me from life.  I still have to get up to go make sure that Carter truly has wiped his butt; to play referee when my two boys are going at it; to do various chores that my wife has been waiting months for me to do and is fed up with my procrastination.  In fact in some ways it makes things more difficult because when I get in that chair all my serving skills go out the window.  I just want to relax, enjoy my chair, my TV, my computer, or whatever it is that I’m selfishly indulging in, and I have no desire to serve others.

I have another chair though that I call my Thanksgiving Chair.  It’s hard, cold, rigid, ugly, and serves one purpose only.  That purpose is to be able to see how to be thankful in every circumstance – 1 Thess. 5:18.  Notice that the verse doesn’t say be thankful about every circumstance but in every circumstance.  This (fictional) chair is with me always, it helps me to focus on what’s important.  You see celebrations and thanksgiving and bdays and anniversaries are awesome, but when I get in my Thanksgiving Chair, so are busted up lips (from falling down the stairs), and disagreements with my wife, and frustrations about the government, or things going on with the Church, or the state of poverty in America, or achy knees or bad backs.
When I’m in that chair, these things become opportunities for me to show God’s love in those situations, even to be thankful for the opportunity to bear with these aggravations and irritations and turn them into God moments.  God was still there when Job was penniless and destitute, He was still there when David was in the throes of sin, He was still there when baby Moses floated in the river, and He is definitely there in your moments of stress, hurt, fear, loss, etc.  Take time to get out of the comfortability of the recliner, take a seat in the hard unbending Thanksgiving Chair and refocus.  We are in this world but not of it.  Am I thankful for the restful moments, the fun moments, and the celebration moments? Absolutely!  But am I thankful for the other moments?  That depends on what chair I’m sitting in.

Thank you God for my Thanksgiving Chair!

In Christ, Lance
Btw I got this idea from a video clip that I found and purchased on Sermonspice.com just to be clear and not to plagiarize.  I will post the video on facebook after I use it on Sunday!

Monday, September 30, 2013

In His Presence Part Two – The Hero of the Story

Zephaniah 3:17b He is a mighty savior.


The word Hero gets thrown around a lot.  It’s used for athletes (mine is Joe Montana), it’s used for political figures, it’s used for firefighters and policemen, it’s used for people who have been influential in other’s lives, and in many of these, a real case can be made for these people being heroic. 

What about the single mother who works tirelessly as the provider of her home as well as the housekeeper, accountant, mechanic, and everything else that comes her way?  Or the grandmother who never gives up on her wayward grandchildren but continues each and every night to pray for them by name and uses every opportunity to show the love of God to them.  I can’t forget the men and women who choose to put themselves in harm’s way by joining the military and defending our country.

I could go on to speak about judges who refuse to be bullied into taking the 10 commandments down, or well known religious men and women who are ridiculed and attacked for standing up for Biblical principles, and many others.

The Bible uses the Hebrew word Gibbor to describe heroes, champions, powerful warriors.  There really isn’t a more descriptive word in the Hebrew language to describe a hero.  It’s the word used in Genesis to describe giants, and Nimrod, and yes it’s the word used to describe who Goliath was.  Hero, champion, so powerful it could even be translated tyrant in certain situations.

And then there is the countless times it is used to describe God including here in Zephaniah 3:17 – God is the heroic, mighty, champion of salvation.  Makes Joe Montana and others look pretty small doesn’t it?  The mighty Goliath couldn’t even stand up to a teenager who had the power of this God let alone God Himself.

God is the champion of salvation, but He had to pick a method for this salvation.  Justice demanded it, the gift of grace came at a price, and the mercy of forgiveness needed a sacrifice.  In comes Jesus, but that’s not really an accurate representation of how all of this came about because God chose Jesus, His only Son, before He ever created the universe, and long before you and I ever came to be.  It wasn't a last minute hail mary.

The prophetic book of Isaiah (9:6) refers to Jesus as “the mighty God”, among other things.  The language here combines Gibbor with El; calling Jesus the El Gibbor from birth.  When you combine these two words you have - Jesus - the Almighty God, Champion and Hero of the story, Savior of the world!  This Lord God who is with you that we read about in the first part of this verse, sent His Son Jesus on your behalf.

Yes He is Mighty to Save – Thank you God for sending El Gibbor!
Lance