Saturday, March 31, 2007

Footprints in the Sand

You are probably familiar with the poem, Footprints in the Sand. It is the story of a person walking on the sand, noticing the footprints left behind. The walk on the sand, of course, represents that person's life’s journey. And most of the time, there are two sets of footprints, the authors, and the Lord’s. But she notices that in the most difficult times of his life there are only one set of footprints. And she did what every one of us has done - she assumed God left!

In the poem, she asked God about this, and the Lord told him there was only one set of footprints because the Lord was carrying her then. The Lord hadn’t left!

On occasion I speak to people who once were close to the Lord, but they aren’t any more. In nearly every case, they assume the Lord had left. Something happened in their life and they couldn’t sense the Lord’s presence, and they thought that the Lord had left.

God doesn’t leave us. The Apostle Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He lists a litany of things that cannot separate us from the love of God. God will not stop loving you!

Don’t assume that God has left because you don’t sense his presence any more. Instead, consider the possibility that perhaps you have strayed. Perhaps you aren’t as close. Perhaps you are the one that needs to move back. Or maybe, that's when the Lord is carrying you!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Church Administration

I was listening to a conversation about some of the various charity organizations that send out letters each month trying to solicit donations. One of the things that was commented on was the administration costs in some of them. Some of them have considerably more administration costs than actual charity work performed.

The comment was made about the local church being an example of an organization that has extremely high administration costs. The people just nodded and went on. There seemed to be consensus on the comment.

But that comment kind of bothered me. As I thought about it, I began to realize that maybe people who think that the administration costs far outweigh the actual good work a church does, may have a relatively inaccurate view of the work a church actually does!

For example, the largest expense in our church is the Pastor’s salary (my salary!). It can be argued that the Pastor’s salary is entirely administrative, but I think you would have a fairly inaccurate view of what your Pastor actually does with most of his time.

Certainly the time spent proclaiming the Lord is not administrative in nature. In your Pastor, you have an evangelist on the street. You have a chaplain on call virtually anytime. You have a preacher for the various services on Sunday, and teacher for the various Bible Studies and other events during the week. None of these are administrative in nature. When you Pastor makes visits to shut-ins in the community or in area nursing homes, none of that is administrative in nature. The real reason a Pastor is on staff relates to these ministry roles – none of which are administrative in nature. So while he is responsible for the administration of the church, that’s not really why he’s there!

Another fairly large expense in a local church is the maintenance and upkeep of the building, grounds, and equipment in the church. But when that building and grounds are used for worship, Bible study and proclaiming God’s word – how is that administrative?

I think we could make that argument with nearly every budget line, because I don’t think they would be in the budget if they weren’t used to bring people into the presence of God.

We exist, not to administrate, but to do the work of God. And that’s not an administrative function! Perhaps, instead of being nearly all administrative, it may well be one of the few organizations that has virtually no administrative costs!

I’d love to hear to hear your comments! Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Teachable Moments

I am providing pastoral care for several couples who will be married this summer. In one of our first visits, we talk about being “teachable.”

When planning a wedding, a couple is usually at one of the most un-teachable times in their lives. They are excited about each other and beginning their life together. We talk about it because I would like to them realize this, and to make an honest effort to look at the relationship and examine their roles in their new family.

Some couples can do this, some can’t. It’s not easy. I don’t think it’s easy for any of us, even if it’s not one of those un-teachable times in our lives.

How teachable are you? Are you set in your ways and not willing to even consider change—even if that change is for the better?

God often uses trials and troubles to reach us, to teach us. If you are teachable, the lesson will be learned and you will grow as a person. But if you are not teachable, the trails may continue, and the blessings of truly being in God’s Will will be lost.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Things can work out for the better

I was thinking of a passage today, Romans 8:28. It’s a pretty popular verse – it says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

The context of my thinking about this passage was a worship service that was part of a meeting I was at. We heard this passage read, and had a few silent moments to think about the passage.

I thought about my own experience, I was brought up in a church, and that upbringing probably kept me out of a little trouble when I was growing up (my sister might not agree with this!). Looking back, I do beleive that my faith kept me out some difficulties that others struggled with.

I was talking with a person in our church last week, and she shared about her faith journey. She, too, grew up in the church, and she, too, shared that because of her Christian upbringing, she was probably spared some difficulties that others struggled with.

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” This is as true in my life today as it was when I first heard it growing up. God has spared me unknown difficulties in my life. If you love God, he has spared you, too.

If you don’t know God, why not begin a relationship with him today. Turn your life over to God, and then these struggles become God’s struggles. And God can handle them. God wants to handle them. God loves you. He wants you to love him.
We live in a world of despair and hopelessness. But God works for the good of those who love him. Maybe we should let him…

Monday, March 26, 2007


There are times that I get very frustrated. I suppose that’s what makes me normal – some would say I’m not normal, but some of them don’t read this post (I don't think they read this post!). Anyway, normal people get frustrated from time to time.

I don’t think you can pour your heart into what you do everyday and not get frustrated sometimes.

When we truly work for God, God will give us the strength to get through it. It doesn’t matter what we do, we can have the attitude that we put groceries in bags for God, or pump gas for God, whatever we do for work can be done for God, our work can be dedicated to God. And God will strengthen us for the task at hand, even on those days that we feel frustrated. Especially on those days we feel frustrated.

A few days ago was one of those times for me. And God strengthened me.
God is so good. And I am truly honored to be able to work for Him.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Father-filtered days

Almond Union of Churches has a Coffee House on the fourth Saturday of each month. Often the musicians will share their testimonies and stories to encourage our faith as they perform for us.

That was case on Saturday night, when the Power Company was here. It was a great night and I know that everyone who came was blessed by the time spent together. And Peter, the lead singer, often shared with us.

One of the things he said really struck me. He had a macaroni strainer, and held it up and said each morning he holds his strainer up and realizes that in that day there may be problems and struggles that arise. But God has promised that he will not allow anything that we can’t handle.

We all laughed at the image of his holding up his macaroni strainer each morning, but the concept that all our problems have already been “Father filtered” and we can know that anything that gets through the filter is small enough for us to handle. We might be stretched from time to time, but the really big stuff can’t get through.
The image of the strainer is good image. We can trust in God to filter our days, and not allow anything beyond our capacity to handle it. And we can trust God to get us through struggles that do get through!

Friday, March 23, 2007

The sheep in us...

I was thinking about sheep this morning. I know, it’s a strange thing to be thinking of. I gave a message at a chapel service for a local Christian school this morning (kids from Kindergarten to Grade 6), and one of the illustrations I used was from John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd.”

I have thought about sheep before, because Scripture has used this illustration before. As I think about sheep, I think about how defenseless they are. They are naturally timid. They are easy prey to the many predators that may seek them. And they are easily led astray, often by another sheep, one of the kids during chapel said they would follow another sheep off a cliff! And they are sometimes led astray by a person that might not have their best interests at heart.

Are we really like sheep? Well, we are fairly defenseless against the many foes that confront us. We are easy prey to some of the things that seek to devour us – especially spiritual things! And we are often led astray by people who often don’t have our best interests at heart. So maybe, just maybe, this illustration of God’s people being like sheep isn’t so far fetched.

What’s the answer for the sheep? The shepherd is the answer. They must follow the shepherd. He will keep them safe and protect them from harm. He will watch over them and always be with them.

What’s the answer for us? Maybe we need the same thing the sheep need. Maybe we need to follow our good shepherd. He will keep us safe and protect us from harm, and he will watch over us and always be with us.

I heard recently that the promise that God will be with us is found in the Scriptures more than any other promise. That’s what we need. Someone who will always be with us, to be our “good shepherd.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spring is here!

In western New York, spring is a longed for event. Winter can tend be a little long here, and the beginning of spring is something we all look forward to.

In fact, those little signs that spring is near are talked about often when they first appear. The first tulip stalks that come out of the ground is like a major rite of passage, and they are always mentioned. As are the first robins to be seen.

A few years ago, a lady at our church used to know all the kinds of birds that frequented her feeder, and would always tell me when the finches, and woeblers, and blue jays, and all the other kinds of birds that are absent during the winter months, would make their spring appearances.

I don’t know that much about birds, but I don’t usually see the first birds of the season. By the time I see a robin, everyone else has given up talking about them. For whatever reason, I usually see the woodchucks on the side of the road eating up the spring grass. Or the skunk – I really don’t like seeing the skunk, but that’s what I see.

Today, I saw my first bee – well it’s almost a bird! But it was a reminder that spring is here. And I was glad I saw it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Allure of Sin

A clergy friend was telling me a story about a vacation he was on recently. They were sitting in the living room of the house watching TV, when a mouse scurried across the room. A chase ensued, which covered most of the house trying to catch this mouse, but with no luck.

He finally took out a couple of mousetraps, filled them with peanut butter (as mice just can’t resist peanut butter), and set them out. A couple of hours later, he hears a snap and goes to investigate. The trap is sprung, but there is no mouse – it somehow managed to get away.

My friend is thinking at this point that there is no way they are going to catch this mouse now, it knows how dangerous that trap is – it will leave it alone now. But an hour or so later he hears another snap, and sure enough, the mouse is in the trap this time.

I guess that is how sin is. We might get away with something once, and we get bold, or careless. And pretty soon, the trap goes off again, and this time we’re caught.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Beach balls...

I had a vision this morning of a beach ball. Now we live in upstate New York and there is snow on the ground, so I haven’t seen a beach ball in some time. But in my quite thoughts this morning, there was that image.

A beach ball is filled with air, and we can’t see the air, but we can see the effects of it being filled with air – it gets bigger! As believers, we get, in a sense, filled with air, too! It’s the Holy Spirit, and you can’t see the Holy Spirit in us any more than we can see the air in a beach ball. We do get bigger, but it’s called Spiritual Growth. We learn to trust in God more. (We can get bigger by going to potluck suppers, too! – but that’s not the same)

Just like watching the beach ball get bigger, you can see the effects of the Holy Spirit in us. The Apostle Paul called them the fruits of the Spirit – when we see people who are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness, we see people who are filled with the Holy Spirit. When we grow spiritually, we are filled with these fruits, too.

Sometimes we see people who claim to be believers, but we don’t see these fruits of the Holy Spirit. Maybe these people are just filled with air…

One more thing about the beach ball image. Have you ever been to a beach and watched a beach ball blow away? They can really move! It only takes a little wind, and the ball can blow away very quickly. In Greek, the word for wind is the same word that is used for spirit.

And I think a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit is guided by the Spirit very much like the beach ball is driven by the wind. We can’t see the wind blowing that beach ball any more than we can see the Spirit guiding the believer. But we can see the effects of the wind on other things, just like we can see the effects of the Spirit in a faithful person.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Eyes to see...

My wife has been having some problems with her eyes lately. Nothing serious, just having a hard time seeing, especially when reading. She made an appointment with an optometrist and found that her eyes had actually improved since she got her contacts, so the prescription was no longer what it should be – it was actually too strong.

We have a lady from church that had cataracts removed several weeks ago, but still hasn’t got a new prescription for her glasses, so she is going without glasses, and also has a very hard time seeing – especially when reading.

These ladies are fortunate about one thing; at least they can see spiritual things. They are both good at seeing things that others can’t. They can see God at work.

It is true that some can see better than others – some can see physical things better than others; some can see spiritual things better than others.

Jesus wrote that some people have ears but cannot hear, and eyes but cannot see. These people can’t see spiritual things.

I think you have to be aligned with the Holy Spirit just right to be able to see spiritual things. These two ladies have a gift – God has enabled them to see things others can’t.

But I think this is a gift that’s available to everyone. You just have to be aligned with the Holy Spirit. You have to be submitted to God’s will, loving the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.

Submit to God, and love him above all others, and he will give you eyes to see!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Are you truly doing the will of God?

In my devotions this morning I was reminded of the need to confess and be right with God. It spoke of God’s judgment for those who don’t repent. I have to admit I have a grudge or two that need to be confessed, I have to forgive some people, and I need to seek forgiveness from some.

It gave a reminder that we can’t expect God to use us if there is anything that needs to be taken care of. And we can’t expect God to draw us closer – we can’t expect to progress on our spiritual journey, if there is something in the way.

These grudges against others and those sins that go unconfessed are like a road block in our spiritual journey. If it isn’t taken care of, we can’t proceed.

If we long for God to use us, we have to follow him closely. If there is something between us, we won’t hear from him. These sins that aren’t forgiven get in the way of a lot of us seeking the relationship God has for us.

But then tonight, I heard a really great illustration about God’s forgiveness. It was in the book, God Is Closer Than You Think by John Ortberg. He lives in California, and his son is into surfing. He suggests that every wave that comes into the shore is like a new opportunity to do God’s will. Each wave is like another opportunity for God to work through us. Or maybe, each wave represents an opportunity for us to get right with Him so that he can work through us.
Forgiveness is important, because he won’t work through us if we don’t confess our sin before Him. But… Every time we fail, we can confess and catch that next wave, that next opportunity He gives us. His opportunities are endless – well almost. Sooner or later we will run out of tomorrows. That’s why it’s so important now to take advantage of today. Confess your sin today – and God will forgive you and give you another opportunity to do His will.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Health and Spirituality...

I was at a clergy gathering this morning and the program was on heart health. The speaker quoted Psalm 4:23, which says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Now usually when the word “heart” is used in Scripture it refers to your inner self – not specifically the organ in the middle of the chest. When we hear that someone loves us with all their heart, it doesn’t refer to the heart muscle, but it refers to someone loving us with their entire being – all they are.

But as they were talking about heart health, I was thinking about the relationship between our health and our spirituality. (Okay, maybe I wasn’t paying attention as well as I could have!)

Under Jewish Law, there was an attempt to keep people eating healthy by stringent laws about what they could eat and what they couldn’t eat. I’ll admit that some of the rules might not make sense compared to what we might think of today as healthy eating, but if you consider the context, and that they were trying to keep food thousands of years before refrigeration, these rules make a lot more sense.

In the 1540’s John Calvin made some reforms in the city of Geneva that applied Christian principles to governing a city. I don’t know if there was any requirements regarding health or diet, but the importance of faith driving our physical being is something to consider.

At the same time, we are both spiritual beings and physical beings, and the spiritual and physical are connected in ways that we don’t understand. I’ve heard of studies that show that people of faith, especially people of faith that are actively prayed for, recover quicker from surgery and disease. And perhaps as a consequence of these studies, you’re hard pressed to find a hospital without a chapel, and a chaplain! As a believer (and as a minister) I would say that God is answering prayers here. Some doctors might disagree, but there is clearly a connection that we don’t understand medically.

All this is to say that our diet and exercise does affect us spiritually. I know that when I don’t feel well, I don’t pray as well, and I’m more apt to skimp (or even skip) Scripture readings and devotions.
So don’t forget to take care of yourself, eat well and get the required exercise to be as healthy as you can, and your efforts to grow spiritually will be blessed as well.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bending the ear of your representative...

I spent the day in Albany on Tuesday, representing our public library. It was a legislative day for public libraries, and several public library systems were represented.

Public libraries in New York State need additional funding badly. So that makes this legislative day very important. The hope is, now that the Senate and the Assembly are in Budget negotiations, this is the time to let our representatives know how important this funding is.

Our goal was to see six representatives – the Senators and Assemblymen from the districts represented by our local library system. The problem is, they were in session, so we were able to see about half of the representatives we intended to, and those we couldn’t see, their aides were very cordial and spent time hearing our concerns, and promised to pass them along.

These legislative days are important so that our representatives understand the issues that are important to us. But do they work?

In reality, there is only so much money available. And every industry has a legislative day. So the representatives listen to every industry and why they need funding – but the reality is, as much as they might agree and feel moved to help, the money isn’t there. So their hands are tied.

As I was reflecting on this, I was very thankful for our heavenly Father. We don’t need a representative before God, we can approach the throne on our own, any time we have a need. In fact, God already knows our needs, and is already working on the answer to our prayers, before we even speak them. He just wants us to ask.

So as much as our state representatives want to help, they can only do so much. But our heavenly Father can do so much more – and will, when we make our needs known to Him.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Funerals, changes, and our need for God.

I led a funeral service for a very dear friend yesterday. She was just three months shy of her 105th birthday! And she really was an incredible person.

I was thinking about the changes she has seen in her lifetime. Imagine what life was like a century ago! And just as amazing as that, I thought about the lack of change before her lifetime. When she was born, I imagine her parents ran their farm very much the same way people had been operating their farms for centuries. Today, the equipment used is so very different it would boggle the mind of someone transplanted from the last century. And farming is probably one of the areas least affected by the changes.

We are certainly a far more prosperous country than we were a century ago. The incredible improvements made in our standard of living is astonishing. And she was an eyewitness! She saw all this happen!

I also thought about faith. A century ago, most everybody went to church. The church bell would ring to let people know when it was time to come. And they came. And often they stayed, with picnic and community events taking place on the church grounds after service. The church was the center of activities in many communities. And when something happened in that community, it was the church that responded first. And I personally think that’s the way it should be.

Today, fewer than fifteen percent of the general population comes to church when the church bell rings. Perhaps the more we can do on our own, the less we feel the need for God. Perhaps a century ago, we understood our dependence on God. Today we think we’re doing okay on our own. So we don’t come to church.

The sad part is, we really need God more than ever. We just don’t realize it.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Is there a difference in you?

I have been trying to loose weight. It’s a long and difficult process. I guess it is going okay, as diets go. But I guess it’s still just started..

It’s been seven weeks of diet and exercise. Seven long weeks (really long weeks!). I hate to think of seven weeks as just a start! But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a difference. I don't think I look any different.

As I think about this, I think I see a spiritual parallel. Dieting might be a little like growing in our faith. We might work really hard, reading the Scriptures, reading devotions each day, praying regularly, but not see much difference in our lives.

My wife told me she noticed a difference. I don’t see it, but she said she saw it. Faith is like that, too. We don’t always see the difference. We don’t think we’re growing spiritually at all. We might not see it. But others around us see it. They notice the difference that our faith makes in our lives. And they watch us, to see if it will last.

Don’t give up just because you don’t see a difference. There is a difference. It’s the difference between life and death. And even if we don’t see it, others do. So persevere! Even on those days when it feels like a fight. When you’re struggling. When God just doesn’t seem near. Persevere!

God will bless you as you follow him. And others will come to him because they see the difference that has made in you. And sometimes, you won’t even see it yourself.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

America gets an 'F' in Religion

I saw an article in USA Today titled Americans get an ‘F’ in religion. It points out the incredibly deep ignorance that Americans have regarding world religions, including Christianity.

To give you a couple examples from the article, sixty percent of Americans can’t name just five of the Ten Commandments. Fifty percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.

Biblical stories and histories just aren’t being taught anymore. People who are old enough to remember learned them in school. Bible stories were used to teach character and morality. They helped to teach history as well. When teaching about nations, it was common to include lessons on what they believed. There are many who say we can’t do that anymore. In reality we can, but most school systems are afraid to. So I guess we might be able to blame the schools.

We could certainly blame the churches. Aren’t we teaching the right things in Sunday School anymore? The article indicated that Sunday Schools have watered down the message and try to make it so fun, that no real teaching is taking place. Lot’s of games, and a snack, but few Bible Stories. I don’t about that – maybe there is something to in some churches – I don’t know.

I do know that churches don’t see too many kids anymore. The reality is that only about fifteen percent of the general population is churched. And much fewer than that fifteen percent are actually attending Sunday School.

Perhaps education just isn’t as valued as much as it used to be. Or is it church that isn’t valued as much? Or, worse yet, is it God?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Hopelessness and Despair

I am writing this from the lobby of a hospital in Rochester, NY. I am sitting in the lobby because the person I tried to visit is out of her room having a test done. The waiting room is full of people. I am a people watcher – I like watching people. And there is a lot to see in a busy lobby in a hospital.

Some people have a look of hopelessness and despair on their face. Whatever brings them to the hospital today has them very worried. I pray for these people as I see them walk by.

Others seem okay. I wonder what brings them here today. Some I suppose are hospital employees and are so used to the setting it’s just another day at work. Others are here visiting friends and loved ones. I wonder how many of these are really okay, and how many are just putting on a good face, keeping up a good image. I wonder how many are just as scared on the inside as the people with the hopeless and desperate looks on their faces.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And not just in the hospital. I guess that’s because hopelessness and despair is all around. I see it everywhere. In the last couple of days I’ve seen it at the grocery, at the local Wal-Mart, at Dunkin Donuts, and at a nursing home I visited.

I’ve been thinking about this because it’s hard for me see hopelessness and despair. I don’t mean it’s hard to see it (it’s all over), I mean it hurts me to see it so often. Maybe because I want to help (I am a pastor after all). But in the end, I know I can’t help. Only God can. But God is with them. They just don’t see him.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4a, NIV)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

There is no better place to be...

I love movies. One of my favorites is a fairly new movie from World Wide Pictures called The Last Flight Out. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

In this film, a character has a line that I particularly love. There is no better place to be than in the center of God’s will – except in his presence. What a great line. What a great truth!

Being in the center of God’s will sometimes involves taking a step back and doing some self-examination to make sure you really are right where God wants you to be. And if you conclude you’re not, the changes needed may seem very difficult.

If that’s where you are right now, I want to encourage you to make those changes anyway – no matter how difficult they may seem. God isn’t calling us to a place that is terribly difficult to get to. He has already equipped us with the special gifts that we will need when we do it – He has already prepared us for it whatever it is.

Being in the center of God’s will brings a peace that we won’t experience anywhere else. We can serve the Lord in our churches for years and years, but never experience the peace that comes from obedience to his will.

Years ago, I felt that God was calling me into ministry, and it scared me. That was the last thing I wanted to do. And I fought it, for many years. Finally about eight years ago, I decided that I needed to be in the center of God’s will for my life – and for me, that meant ministry. I have experienced the biggest blessings of my life since.
I don’t know what being in the center of God’s will means for you. But I am guessing that if you really think about it, you already know what it means. Because God has already been telling you. I can assure you, that if you’re not there, you’re missing the biggest blessings of your life.

Monday, March 5, 2007


Cancer. Very few words strike terror in our hearts like the word cancer. It is a dreaded disease, with sometimes dreaded results.

My first experience with cancer was when I was in my twenties, and I had a friend, also in his twenties. He worked on a cruise ship and developed a spot on the back of his neck. This was soon diagnosed as Melanoma, a form of skin cancer. My friend died within months. This was a long time ago, and incredible advances in cancer treatment have taken place since then. And perhaps that spot went undiagnosed too long before he sought treatment. But images of this young man suffering so before he died will be with me forever.

In my years of ministry, I have made more pastoral visits to people with cancer than for any other reason. Currently I am seeing a dear friend and member of our church who is fighting Leukemia. She has been through a lot, but she has a long way to go. Her faith is strong, and she believes that God will bring her through this – I believe she’s right. She is in my daily prayers, as she is in the daily prayers of many.

My father was just recently diagnosed with cancer in his nose. He is receiving radiation daily, and at this point he is about half way through his treatments. His prognosis is very good. But it’s a scary thing to fight such a dreaded word. Undoubtedly you know people who fought this word, perhaps people who are fighting it now.

According to Wikipedia, cancer is a class of disease or disorders characterized by uncontrolled division of cells and the ability of these cells to spread. In other words, for some reason yet unknown to science, our cells start going crazy, multiplying out of control, and spreading to other parts of our body, apparetly encouraging those cells to go crazy and multiply out of control too.

As I think about cancer, I think there is a spiritual equivalant in the Body of Christ today. Whenever someone goes off on their own to serve God in their own way, they are that cancer. Whenever we do things for God, instead of following His lead and doing things with God, we are that cancer. If Christ is the head of the church, we should be servng Christ. Following His lead. Going where He leads. Doing what He directs. Anything else, and we are acting outside of His control. Parts of the Body acting out on their own, uncontroled. That’s cancer.

Are you guilty of being cancer in your church. Are you close to God, following His lead, speaking to Him regularly through prayer, listening to Him regularly through reading Scripture and reflection, seeking confirmation through his Body at a local church? If not, how do you know you are doing His will, and not just your own will? How do you know you are not a form cancer that is eating away at the Body of Christ?

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Church Transformation

I attended a Leadership Day Seminar today. There were a number of workshops offered, but the one that caught my eye was one titled Tools for Transformation. The keynote speaker for this event was also the presenter for the Tools for Transformation workshop. It was a very well done workshop, with lots of resources and lots of ideas for bringing people into our churches.

There is one thing that I often find missing from workshops on church transformation, and that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. God is in the transformation business, and we can’t hope to transform anybody (or any church) without the work of God in our midst.

To me, church growth is impossible without spiritual growth, and spiritual growth is usually left out of any attempt to transform or grow our churches. At least it’s been left out of the workshops I’ve attended. That’s why our churches aren’t growing. How many people did Peter lead to Christ before he was filled with the Holy Spirit? (zero – zip – none!) How many after? (3,000 the first day!)

If you want your church to grow, you need to grow yourself. As we grow spiritually, we invite others. We act as the people of God. We are filled with the Holy Spirit which leads and guides us. Who wouldn’t want to go to a church where all that was happening? And who would invite people to a church that didn’t have that?

We transform the church by transforming ourselves. Become serious about your own spiritual growth, and you will make a difference – Because as God fills you, others will notice, and seek to be filled too! Then the church will grow!

Friday, March 2, 2007

God is closer than you think...

We have dish-to-pass dinners at the church every Thursday during the season of Lent. After dinner, we have a program. Two years ago we did a Bible Study that really helped us understand the kingship of Jesus. We looked at the line of David, what it meant to be a King, and how you would become a King. That way we could better understand the reason for the lineage of Jesus given in the New Testament.

Last year we did some studies in current events. Using the WiredWord as our starting point, we looked at current news stories, then looked to Scripture to see how a biblical worldview helps us understand the world we live in. It was a great study!

This year I had planned to do another Bible Study, but just a couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to preview a small group program, God Is Closer Than You Think, by John Ortberg. I’ll readily confess I haven’t read the book yet, but I think I can highly recommend it after what I have seen in the first session of this program.

What impressed me the most was the concept that Michaelangelo expressed in painting the ceiling of the Sisteen Chapel. I copied the picture above so you can see it. The image is of God on the right side reaching out to Adam. He is leaning forward, arm stretched out straight, finger extended, trying to reach Adam. On the left side we see Adam looking a little hesitant. He’s leaning back, arm bent at the elbow, finger pointing downward. From the image, God is desiring to be with Adam much more than Adam is desiring to be with God.

Today the image would be the same: God reaching out to his creation, while mankind is pulling back, unwilling to fully commit to a loving God. I wonder why that is? I wonder why it is with me – why do I do the same thing? I’ve certainly seen enough in my life to know that God is near. Yet miracle after miracle that I witness first hand, I still have to remind myself to trust him next time. If I was in that painting, I wonder if I would be leaning back too.

We really can trust God. He really is that close. So just stretch out your finger just a little and touch the God of the universe. Just lean forward a little and embrace your loving creator. Make a move to be with him, and he will be with you. He’s waiting now.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

In like a lion, out like a lamb...

It’s the first day of March, and unfortunately, it’s a lovely day. I say unfortunately because we have a saying in this part of the country about the month of March: In like a lamb, out like a lion – in like a lion, out like a lamb.

I was hoping for terrible weather. I was hoping that March would come in like a lion, so that it would go out like a lamb. That way, I would feel like the end of winter is getting near.

I don’t like winter. I’m a summer person. And I am looking forward to the start of summer. So stormy winter weather in the beginning of the month might just be an indicator that the end of winter is near.

Of course it’s never quite that easy. In this part of the country it’s not unusual to get some snow in April, or sometimes, even in May. I think this saying just makes me feel better.

I was reflecting on that saying - In like a lamb, out like a lion – in like a lion, out like a lamb. While it is somewhat true regarding the weather, it might also be somewhat true spiritually.

I have met many people who start out incredibly strong in their faith. They serve the church with abandon in the first few years of their faith, but they soon burn-out. In a few years, you don’t even see them in the church.

I am reminded of Jesus and his sayings about the seed that falls on the path in what is known as the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:1-18). People like that are like the seed that falls on the rock. They hear the word, and it takes root, but because of the rock, the roots don’t grow deep, and soon their faith dies out.

I’m not saying that we need to pace ourselves – we should serve with abandon. We should serve with all we have. That’s a part of loving the Lord with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength.

But we also need to make sure that our roots go deep. Our quite times with the Lord will bring us the water that quenches the soul. Deepening our relationship with Christ through the Scriptures and through prayer will enable us to persevere.

Then perhaps, we can come in like a lion, AND go out like a lion!

Faith First

  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him...