Monday, December 10, 2007

True Spirit of Christmas is a "irst time"experience

This time of year we hear a lot about "the true spirit of Christmas" and most of the people who say it are pretty close when they talk about it being the season to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. When I hear the statement these days it reminds me of something I once heard a youth evangelist talk about at a service. He spoke about Mary and how Mary had the true Spirit of Christmas alive and inside of her for nine months. That always makes me think of what happened when she unleashed that Spirit into the world. For the first time God looked at the world through human eyes. For the first time, He heard it through human ears, smelled it across human sinuses, touched it with human hands, and tasted things on a human tongue. There were all kind of "first time-evers" that came along with Jesus' time here on earth. How many can you think of? What does it mean to you when you think of God the Creator experiencing the creation the same way you do? Stop right now and think about that for a few minutes.......(This is me waiting while you think)....... How awesome is that!
Now think about the Spirit of Christmas being alive inside of you. Think about all the firsts that would happen if you unleashed it into the world now and year-round. Someone around you might look at God for the first time. Someone may hear God speaking to their heart for the first time. A person near you may for the first time in their lives smell the opportunity to have a purposeful life. They may feel the love of Christ for the first time ever! Someone may finally smell victory over harmful choices or addictions. Someone or some people around you may even get a chance, for the first time in their lives, to experience this life as a member of God's family! Wow! What else could happen for the first time if we just unleash the Spirit inside of us?................(again)...................... Man, this is an awesome day to think, huh?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lord, I Thank You for What I Do Not Have?

Man it has been a while, sorry. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

This is a wonderful time of year! This is a time when we are reminded to be thankful for all the we have and even all that we do not have. We can be thankful for the great things we have in our lives and thankful for the not-so-great things that we do not have in our lives. Sometimes we focus so much on being thankful for what we have that we forget to be grateful for the unpleasant things that we do not have. There are so many reasons to be thankful for not having these things in our lives beyond just that it makes our lives more comfortable and enjoyable.. For one it helps us to be satisfied with what we do have. Two it helps to remind us to be thankful year-round because misfortune never takes a holiday, but then neither does good fortune when our perspective is right. Also, it reminds us to pray for those at home and around the world who do have those hard things to deal with in their lives.
We should also be thankful for some of the things that we do not have in our lives that we would like to have. Because not having them means that we are not ready for them or cannot handle them right now and this is God's way of looking out for us by not letting us have something that will hurt us. We live in a culture that is obsessed with having stuff. Learning to become thankful for what we do not have is countercultural, but if we do that then a lot of the stuff that we don't want (ie. bills, stress over stuff, and money issues) will not become ours. If we can find a way to be thankful for not having some stuff then we will learn to be thankful for what we do have and this will prevent us from becoming a person obsessed with getting more stuff.
Maybe this simplicity is part of the abundant life Jesus talked about in John 10:10?

Happy Thanksgiving Day!
and remember, be thankful everyday, in every prayer!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sometimes Reality is Great!

We had a baptism this past Sunday where we baptized 10! All under the age of 19! Four of which are new commitments within the last 2 months and 3 or so wanting the baptism to be a recommitment since they had never been baptized before. All were first time baptisms.
Then we had a church-wide pitch-in and swimming in the pond and zip-line.
It was an awesome day. A real pick-me after the previous week's experience.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reality Bites (sometimes)

It has been a while since I wrote last. At first it was because I was busy, but the last couple of weeks I have felt unworthy.

Have you ever had an experience so awesome that you came away feeling like a spiritual giant? I had one two weeks ago. I spent three days in Mark Wilson's spiritual formations class where God really dealt with me on some issues and during the class and times of solitude Mark sent us to I really felt like God and I developed a great plan to get past those and I felt much closer to God. I guess being that close to someone like God can make you feel big yourself if you have the wrong perspective. It was a great class, God did some awesome things in my life and I am seeing the first fruits of areas that were turned over to Him there. However, experiences that make you feel like a giant are often followed by those which make you feel like a spiritual pe-on.

I have to get spiritually naked for a minute. I am only now feeling comfortable writing about this. I am writing this to encourage, not to condemn, or seek sympathy for I deserve none. We all screw-up sometimes we just have to pick up the pieces we still need, leave the junk and get back in the game!

On the way home I God presented me with an opportunity to witness to a young man in Tipton, IN. I had stopped at a gas station to fill up. I went inside. Inside, this young man proclaimed loudly to the cashier (whom I assume he knew well) that there was a big party about to happen at his house and he was on his way to get "s**t-faced"(I censored it, he did not). Being the spiritual giant that I was feeling like after such a week, I thought to myself, "That is sad. Why does he have to do that." Moments before he said this the cashier had asked if she could help anybody and he had said, "I'm beyond help, but ok." I followed right behind him out the door judging him in my heart the whole way. God spoke to me in my truck and said, "You could have told him that I love him and that he is not beyond help." I felt like a pe-on. So I made a deal, "Ok God, if I see him as I am leaving town I will tell him your message." I saw his car parked at the liquor store. I circled the store three times waiting for him to come out, (why didn't I go in?). I was afraid I would look like a stalker and I convinced myself that it was getting late so I need to get home to my wife. So I left..................

Six miles later I was still eat up with being such a chicken that I hung a u-turn and went back praying with every mile that God would let my find him. I did not. I was left with a two hour drive home to think about what a chicken poop I am! I hate that feeling. I never want to deal with it again. All I could do was ask God to send someone move loyal than me to him. I hope it happened. I didn't need to witness to him of take him down the Roman Road, God just wanted me to bless him and tell him that God loves him. I blew it! I never want to blow it like that again.

Sometimes when we are close to God we may feel like spiritual giants, but then, reality bites!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Youth Center!!!!

It has been a long time since I blogged last and I hope to get one done again soon, but it has been a crazy busy time lately. We are on the verge of opening a Youth Center in Albion, IN(our town). I have been working with about 20 individuals from about 6 or 7 different churches and denominations to build this center. Our church began the movement and I am president of "The Studio" which is the name of it. We are having a pre-opening tomorrow night (Thurs. 7-12) and Grand Opening for teens on Friday night. We are so excited and it is going to be an awesome God thing for the next several years and then some. God has really done an awesome thing bringing so many people from so many theological backgrounds together to accomplish this. It seems like an awesome thing to us because we are human, but to God it was just a snap of his fingers because He is God! Which tells me that we as humans can mess up even the simplest of things.
So I guess that is a lesson for today's blog. No matter what background you come from, if we are all on the same team, then we have the same coach, and that coach can do some awesome things with the team when the "superstars" get out of the way and let Him be the coach. No matter if we even know what the word theology means, we all are affected by a theology in some way because we all have a background and that background affects our view of church and God even if that background denies God, that is the effect it has.
So put aside differences, let the Coach be the Coach and the team will accomplish its purpose.
Please pray for the Studio this weekend to have an awesome start and to run a long and prosperous race!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

God Hates hate.

I have spent most of the morning watching videos on You Tube. I linked there from and e-mail to watch a funny(and clean) video but some others attracted my attention. I watched several videos from people replying to Westboro baptist Church(I purposely did not capitalize the b because they really are not a Baptist church) and their "God hates...." campaign. I then watched some videos of them promoting their message on news stations and such, and then I went to one of their websites to see their stuff.
They really miss the mark on loving others only they do not accept the argument that they do. God loves all of His creation and He wants to see no one perish into Hell. He did not come to the world to send us to Hell, but to save us from it (John 3:17).
But all the love stuff aside since they do not accept that line of reasoning anyway; they are exactly the thing I was talking about in my last blog. They are so mean and nasty with their way that they are not reaching people with the Gospel, they are chasing people away from it. They say that God has given them special gifts to save and to know the truth but they are doing just the opposite. They are doing the Kingdom so much damage with their hate. Since they have a messed up interpretation of love then how about this, in Matt. 7 and Luke 6 Jesus talks about not worrying about the speck in your brother's eye because of the beam or plank in your own eye. He makes the one a beam because not only do they have unresolved sin in their life, but they are condemning others for having it in their life which adds more sin. So obviously condemning others is wrong and the hate that comes from WBC is not just a plank, it is an entire lumber yard!
God does not hate people. Hating people does not bring them into the Kingdom, it hides the gates and pushes them away. God hates anything that keeps people from coming to Him. The sad part is all the people who hate the Church and hate God because of it. With a message of hate, condemnation, and legalism the Church has created a culture of people who not only do not know God, but hate Him, His son, and His message.
Leading people away from God is a sin and for that I am truly sorry to all who do not know God, all who have been hurt by the Church, and all who now disregard or hate the Gospel. As a representative of God's Church I am sorry if we have hurt you and mistreated you in the name of God. I want to deal with the plank in my own eye first and then be there to lovingly help you remove your speck when you are ready, so we can walk together into life and eternity with clear sight of the love and power of God.
I love you all and want to help, but I acknowledge that I need just as much, if not more, help.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Church Under Attack, but you won't believe where from!

These days the church is under attack more than ever. But you may not believe where the latest rounds of attacks are coming from. Our self! We are attacking each other at an alarming rate these days. So many people are so eager to redefine church that they are bashing every church other than their own. I am sick of the worship wars and the fighting within the church. I am certainly not one to condone shallow or fake Christianity. But for all of those who have fought so long and hard to be allowed to worship in your own way and style, or to live out your faith in your own way; why are you turning around and attacking those who did not follow you into your way? Why can't the traditional way work for them anymore just because it doesn't work for you? If that is their style and you are all for allowing people the freedom to worship in their style then leave them alone and let them do what works for them.
Also in our eagerness to redefine church we are trying to change the name of everything. Some even do not want to use the word Christian anymore. I am not opposed to Christ-follower, or Christian Spirituality, or any other name one uses to describe themselves as a disciple of Christ as long as they are authentic; and this includes the word Christian. I am only irritated by the way that those who have changed their name condemn those who do not. There is nothing wrong with the name Christian. It means Christ-like or little Christ. How can that be bad? That is what we all want anyway; to be like Christ, the true Christ. So call yourself whatever works to help you be Christ-like, but make sure you are being Christ-like with it. The down side of changing the names and words to attract the non-Christian or pre-Christian is that if they are scared off by the word Christian then as soon as they connect Christian with the new term then they are gone anyway. Then we get caught in a vicious cycle of name changing and lose our real focus. The permanent solution is not to change the name but change the reputation. Change how the outside world views the Church by changing the way we interact with and treat them. Treat them like friends and family rather than outsiders, after all God created them too. Apologize for the Church's ignoring and rejecting them for all these years and build a new relationship with them, one where they can see the biblical Christ in you no matter what you call yourself. Change the rep, not just the name.
It it time for the Church to come back together and fight this enemy together. And the enemy by-the-way is not secular people it is the spirit behind the secularism they are blinded by, Satan, no one else. (Eph 6:12) We can only win this war if we work together, crossing our own lines to do it. In the military when we setup a defensive position we formed what was called, 'interlocking fields of fire' because if each position had their own separate fields of fire, there would be too many holes for the enemy to come in through. That is what has happened to the Church in the last couple of hundred years and the last round of interior attacks are not helping close the holes, only make them larger. 1 Corinthians 12 is a cry for the church to work together what ever your calling. Let's do it.
Please, let's stop the friendly fire issue and concentrate our efforts on the real enemy of God. I am a fairly non-traditional pastor. If I had to be labeled it would be somewhere between modern and post-modern with a splash of contemporary and traditional. I am a generational mutt I suppose. But the real question is not what am I, but what is the culture I minister in. There is where I need to focus my efforts and style.
It is no accident that the following chapter in 1 Corinthians(13) is about love and about no matter our gifts, talents, styles, or calling that it is all for naught if we do not do it in Christ-like love. I love all Christians and non-Christians. I am sorry if I have every said or done anything to attack you in anyway. I only want to attack Satan and I feel that the inner-bickering in the Church is his latest weapon against God. Please let's love each other and as long as we are loving, worshipping, and serving the one true God, let it go.
Warriors for Christ!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Easter is Not the Cross

Easter is a beautiful time of the year. Spring is coming in and all of nature seems to be restarting brand new. Perfect for the reason behind Easter. At times we as Christians focus a lot on the crucifixion during this season, but let’s not forget the most important event in the earthly life of Jesus the Christ; His resurrection. The crucifixion is a wonderful example of love and sacrifice, but without the resurrection it would be just another cool story of a great leader with a tragic end. But Wait! It wasn’t over when He died! It still isn’t over today! He came back three days after His death! Just like He said He would. This was God’s ultimate rebuttal to all the lies and allegations at His ‘trial.’ The story still continues today. Without the resurrection we have no power over sin and death.
I have been asked, “What makes Christianity any different from all the other religions in the world?” First off, it is not a religion. It is an invitation to have a relationship with the living and loving God. Religions condemn people; Christianity, through Jesus, gives people the chance to avoid condemnation. Secondly, Christianity is the only world faith that claims that it’s leader and founder has risen from the dead. All religions have either a founder who is in the grave of or god who never lived as a human. They must visit a grave that is in use if they want to get close to their object of worship. Christians do not have to visit a grave and if they do, it is empty!
Easter is about the resurrection. It is about how even though He was severely mistreated; Jesus came back, and will come back again. He loves us too much to stay away. Easter is about what has happened in the nearly 2,000 years since His death. It is about the Christian’s mission to spread the love and message of Christ. Jesus’ charge to Christians came after His resurrection. This week focus your reading on these passages: Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20, 21; and Acts 1, 2. These tell us what we are supposed to be doing, the rest of the Bible tells us how to do it. Easter is about how no person has to go through life alone. Jesus came back to send the Holy Spirit for the Christian and the Christian is sent to be here for the non-Christian. Easter is about you, me, and everybody else in the world. Easter is about God’s glory shinning through His creation and His plan for us.
If the tomb were not empty; then everything that happened before or since would be. The resurrection gives meaning to the cross; and is the single most important element in the event of Jesus the Christ. It sparked the revolution that gives us hope for eternity and for today. Without it Jesus is nothing and if He is nothing, we are nothing. This Easter, bask in a celebration of the resurrection!
Easter is about the empty tomb, not the cross.
Happy Resurrection Day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What does holiness mean?

I am not really writing a post this time. I am more or less asking you to write one for me. I am working on a paper for Doctrine of Holiness class and I need to ask three questions to be used in the paper. Don't worry, I will not use your name unless you just want me to. Not that anybody outside my prof will see it. Questions:
1) What do you think holiness means?

2) When you hear the word 'holiness' what comes to mind?

3) Do you feel holiness, as you understand it, is important to the Christian life?

Please post your answers here on the blog. I need these by Thursday a.m. at the latest.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Life stinks!

Hey all,
I know it has been a looong while since I last blogged, but I have been slammed lately. With a week long trip to SC for a class, a week out of the office to help my wife after carpal tunnel surgery, and our churches Vision Defining Seminar retreat this past weekend. Not to mention all the work and meetings to get the student center in Albion going, regular staff meetings, board meetings, a laundry list of hospital visits, and sermon and lesson prep.
One thing on my mind is from a funeral for a seven year old boy that I spoke at during this weekend, in addition to the retreat.
Life is short, even for those of us who seem to live forever, not just little ones who move on. James 4:13-17 tells us that life is like a mist, here for a little while then gone. I want you take out a bottle of cleaner like Windex, 409, Resolve, air freshener, or anything that cleans or deodorizes that sprays a mist...........(waiting for you to do this)...................... Now, spray that in the air one time and watch.........It's there, but then it is gone. The life of that mist is short but accomplishes a lot. Do it sniff..... the mist is gone, but its affects are still in the air and will be for awhile. That short mist leaves behind a beautiful scent because in it's short life it worked hard to accomplish its purpose. Logan, the seven year old, did not die early, he just finished early. He accomplished all that God purposed for him quickly. He wanted to be in the Army when he grew up. He was and is in the Army, God's Army. In the Army one is always given a mission. After six years as a Sgt. in the Marine Corp, I never saw a soldier carry out their mission as efficiently as Logan carried out his. He did in seven years what many of us take a life time if we get that much. So many were affected by this little boys life(You should have heard the testimony about him by those there, young and old alike) One old man even said that he always wondered what Jesus was like as a young boy and after knowing Logan he knows! How awesome is that! This boys life may have been short, but the scent his life left behind will go on till the end of the world! And so will yours, whatever that scent is, it will go on until this world ends. My Question for you on this blog is this, and please respond even if you have to sign-up for a blog hey its free!
What kind of scent will your life leave behind?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Daniel 2 "Lord bless---What?"

Hey all! Did anyone wonder what happened to me? I wondered what happened to me! I have been unbelievably slammed the last few weeks. So many things going on all at once and during this time God has really been stretching me and challenging me on some things. Maybe when I get that all sorted out I can write about it or I may write about it before I get it sorted out in my mind and we can sort it out together. But for now let's pick back up with Daniel. I believe we were at the beginning of the second chapter of Daniel.
King Neb had a dream. It really had him shook up for some reason. So shook up in fact that he wanted to make sure that his "wise" men did not take advantage of him and sell him a bill-of-goods. He needed to know the true answer, not some fabricated 'truth' told by a bunch of slick, fast-talking gurus with their own agendas. King Neb was no idiot. Sometimes we tend to think that those who do not know or trust in God and God alone are total idiots. While they may not be making the smartest decision in the world when they choose to reject God, they are not all idiots. Neb was pretty smart and he knew that if these guys could tell him what the dream was without him telling them first then they would know the truth. Haven't you ever wanted to do that to a psychic hotline? Call them and when they ask for your name and credit card number say, "Don't you already know?" or "You tell me!" Well, that is exactly what King Neb did here. Must have been an awesome dream to go through this much trouble. I am sure he never grilled these guys like this before, he just always took their word. I am sure it shocked these dudes to the core and they responded with more accuracy then they realized. They said, "Only the gods" can do this, and they said that no man alive could tell him the dream. They were right, only they were trying to lie and stall for time and they mentioned the wrong god. Yes, only God could do what the king was asking, and no man alive could do it without God's help. But there was a man alive who knew the right God and who was smart enough to ask for His help. When Daniel was faced with a seemingly impossible situation, the first thing he did was turn to God. Notice that Daniel did not arrogantly say, "I can do this! Take me the king right now," and then ask God to save him on the way to the king. No, he first ask for more time, he then got his friends and they went straight to God and said hey, "God, we got this situation here and we need to know what you want us to do? We know you can handle it and we want to be available for you to use to handle it, but we need you to tell us what to do before we do anything." Then an amazing thing happened, not what Daniel did with the king, we will get to that next week, the amazing thing was that God revealed the plan! What a novel idea! Asking God what He wants us to do before just go and do it. To top it all off, God will actually tell us if we ask.
I know it has been said in SS class after SS class that if you have a problem take it to God. But lets stop and think, "How often do I really do that?" Typically we try to go take care of it ourselves and if we even talk to God, it is more like, "Hey God, I got this problem, here is what I am going to do to fix it. Please make my plan work." or "Bless what I am doing." And then if it doesn't work we ask God, "Why didn't you help me on that?" The real question is why didn't we confide in God and ask His plan before we devised our own? If we believe that God is faithful, just and can do anything, then why don't we trust Him to send us a plan for our troubles and to send a plan that will work? And why do we only seek God's counsel and blessing when we are in troublesome situations? Why say, "Hey God, things are going great, you are awesome. What do you want me/us to do next?" Maybe we are afraid He will want to change what we are doing and we want to hold on to the good as long as possible. But what He tells us to do, even if it is different, will work out for good in the end! Maybe though, He might just say, "Keep doing what you are doing, but keep asking me, because I have something else in mind for you later. Thanks for asking!"
So my question for you this week is, when was the last time you really ask God to tell you what to do rather then just asking Him to bless what you are already doing or going to do? When was the last time you waited for the Lord's direction instead of rushing to your own decision and trying to force God to deal with it? Most of the time God will let you try your own plan, but He will not bless it because He already has a pre-blessed plan ready for you, you just need to ask for it and trust in.
Talk to me about this. Answer the questions here on the blog and share with us your thoughts, struggles, needs, and even commitments to do better.
Love you,