Monday, July 28, 2008

A Passion to Serve

Alright. Here we go again, another beautiful Monday morning. (Is that even possible, ya’ know a beautiful Monday morning?) If anyone knows about a pastor’s life then you know that July is the busiest month of your life. With all the camps, mission trips, VBS, and your own measly attempt at a vacation. Today is my first day of a mini-vacation so I guess it qualifies to be a beautiful Monday morning.
Week before last I spent the first half of the week in Columbus, IN helping to rebuild houses for people who lost everything in the flood last month. We took eleven people down; six from our church  and five from another. Last week I also spent twenty four hours at the hospital with a family, had a board meeting, played in a golf scramble with some church folks, preached a Sunday sermon, and went to Marion for my own ordination service. That is just the tip of the iceberg for a pastor in July.
The time in Columbus serving with other brothers and sisters in Christ was very special. We enjoyed immense fellowship and were very blessed to have the opportunity to serve those in need in the name and out of the love of Christ. Pastor Mark is an awesome guy and my “brother from another mother.” The people whose houses we worked on were so appreciative and you could tell that through the devastation of their lives being torn apart that they had truly met Christ face to face in the willingness of the Christians in that area and around the state to answer the call to help.
The ordination service was a special time for me personally because it brought to fruition a six and a half year quest. My first official day in the ministry was Jan. 1, 2002 and I began as a 30 year old ministerial student and youth pastor. Six years later I have gone through numerous courses, became a licensed minister, moved to Indiana for a different youth ministry position, have moved even further north in Indiana to become a senior pastor, and am now an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church. It was fun to spend time with other minister friends reminiscing about the journey it took to get here. Let me point out that I have not finished anything. I have only finally made it to the starting block!
That week was special for me, but it was special only because God has instilled in His children a desire to serve Him. All that has happened in my life this past week has been evidence of a passion to serve God not only on my part but on the part of countless others. Some of whom I have had the pleasure of actually crossing paths with and some of whom I am simply reaping the benefits of the legacy left behind by their passion to serve. This week’s evidence of holiness is just that. A passion to serve God.
Both Drury and DeNeff list as an evidence that of our passion to serve God. Is it the believer’s one true passion or is it just a hobby for the weekends or when there is time? Do they think about God, talk about God, talk to God more and more than ever before? Would it be the last thing they would give up or would it be given up before anything else? Have they given anything up for it or have they kept it to times and areas that are convenient for them? Is obeying God the most important thing in their life? How about others; are they attracted to God because of this person? Are they trying to pack the bus as in the first article in this series? Is there any fruit from their ministries? If anything takes priority over God then sanctification is probably not theirs yet.
Time and again Jesus asked prospective followers to give up everything to follow Him and some just could not pay the price. There was the rich young man who did not want to sell all that he owned and give it to others; then there was the other who asked if he could wait until his father passed to follow. Both went away, of their own accord, dejected because they could not pay the price. The message was clear, nothing and He means nothing, is to be more important in the believer’s life than God.
If a believer is serving God than the believer is serving others because the one true passion of God’s heart is people. After all, He created them.
Have a great week! Talk to me!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Still Going & Going

You have seen the Energizer Bunny. That joker is always on the go! I mean, where is he going? I don’t know but I wish he would get there already! Is he ever going to get there? Good thing he isn’t traveling with kids, huh?(Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I gotta go! I’m hungry!) IDK where he is going, but he is having one awesome journey isn’t he? I mean he has been everywhere! So I guess the point of the commercial is not his destination, but rather the journey and of course how the batteries are strong enough to keep him on the move; even strong enough help others keep moving. (Remember the UFO commercial?)
The Christian life is kinda like this. We should grow from and enjoy the journey. The journey is an important part of who we become in Christ. We should stay plugged into our source of power that keeps us going. But this is where the illustration seems to break down. For this pink bunny the destination doesn’t matter and doesn’t even seem to exist. For us the destination is the best part of the journey; along with helping others get there. Not that the journey and the power to keep going are not important, because those things are what keep us going. (The whole A+B=C thing) But they also come as a result of the destination. We keep on the journey because we see the destination and the power to keep going hails from the destination. So the destination is what keeps us going & going.
Along this journey we have three focal points: Looking back, looking down, or looking forward. Usually we are going to be moving in the direction we are looking. Philippians 3:12-14 illustrates this well.
Looking back at what lies behind (v. 12). The journey we have taken thus far is behind us. We have had past progress. We have had good days. A season in life is measured by what it leaves behind and we have left behind some pretty cool stuff. It is okay to cherish and learn from the past journey. We cannot live there. The past journey is what has gotten us to the point we are at now, but it alone will not get us any further.
There needs to be some time looking down at what lies underfoot (v. 13a). We need to look at where we are. We need to have an understanding of our current situation and abilities. We need to asses where we to go next and stay plugged into the power source that takes us there. We are in a pretty good spot, but it is not “end game” yet and we need to keep moving forward. We can’t get caught trying to merely maintain status quo. Maintaining where we are is actually trying to maintain the past because the past is what got us to our current status quo. Maintaining the past means living in it.
So our chief focus should be on looking forward at what lies ahead (v.13b-14). Does this mean the past is meaningless? Of course not, it is why we are where we are. We simply do not need to get complacent. Take it forward. Keep your eyes on the prize and keep going until you get it. Keep looking at your destination, keep moving towards it and looking for those you can help.
In life we are either moving or we are losing; going forward or falling back. If we are trying to maintain status quo then we are really slipping backward maybe so slowly that we don’t notice until we have lost a lot of ground. In high school we used to slowly roll our car backwards at stoplights to make the driver next to us think that they were rolling forward. They were easily scared because they were not focusing ahead. We as individuals or organizations are typically going in the direction of where we focus our attention.
So where is your attention? Are you living in the past, still dreaming of the good ol’ days? Are trying to maintain where you are and what you have? Or are you looking to the future with a healthy respect for the lessons learned in the past and staying plugged into the power source that will get you there? Are you looking back; looking down; or looking forward? Keep going and going. Keep your eyes on the prize. When life is spinning out of control or when it is at its best, watch the Lamb. The world hates the cross because to them it means death and humiliation. We love it because to us it means hope and rescue. It means hope because the Lamb was on it; and because He was on it we never have to be! The rest of the world does not have that hope, or prize, to focus on. Their prize is the temporary, they can’t see the cross like we do. But, if those of us who claim to see it would start living like we see it, then maybe just maybe they will be able to see it too.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Independence?- Are we really independent?

In America we have a spirit of Independence do we not? It is awesome! We don’t need anybody or anything. We didn’t need the King, Britain, or Europe, did we? We left there on purpose! We trekked out on our own, blazed our own trail, and wouldn’t let anyone stop us! The American dream is built on the relentless pursuit of that dream. We are self-made people. The all-American person does it on their own! They make themselves! Nobody hands them anything! The all-American man is a self-made man and the all-American woman doesn’t need any man! We didn’t ask for anyone’s permission or help to become what we have become. We are strong and we are fortified! There has only been one war in our history that we have even come close to losing and we call it a tie! We are tough, we are rugged, & we are unstoppable! No one can stop America and we stand on our own two feet! When other nations need help who do they call? America! We have ambition, drive, and intestinal fortitude! We are what we are and we make no apologizes for it! God bless America! America is the greatest country on the face of the earth and we did it all by ourselves!
Or did we? (Philippians 4:13)Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence? I can’t even spell it! (Spell checker is screaming at me right now) Yeah we threw off the British rule, but we did it with the help and direction of God. The last paragraph has these two statements, “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,…” & “ with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,…” We admitted from the beginning that we needed and had help. But it has been a long time since that day. It has been a long time since we as a nation truly relied on God for our survival. Even after 9/11 we didn’t truly rely on God! We gave Him some lip service and ran to sanctuaries all over the country. But we didn’t truly rely on Him! We wanted to be known for lifting ourselves out of the ashes of that horrible day and taking it to the punks that did this thing to us! And that is just what we did. We didn’t wait for permission from the rest of the world to chase those rats back into their holes. We jumped onto our steel steeds, rode over there and opened fire on ‘em! Man what a fight we put up! But where did we leave God? Did we follow Him or did we try to do it ourselves? I am not saying that we should not have defended ourselves. Even I myself called my Marine reserve unit and volunteered to come back and go with them if they needed me. I was mad!
How far should we take the independent American spirit? Have we taken it too far already? Is that spirit destroying us right now? Are we really independent? I submit to you that we are not totally independent, so the question is where do we put our dependence?
It is our independent spirit that makes it difficult for us to admit that there is a God. Even if we admit He is there, it makes it difficult for us to admit that we need to rely on a crucified savior for salvation and strength. But there is a God, and we do not have to do it all on our own. We can’t! We have to have something to depend on. Let’s put down our independent spirit long enough to seek the help we need.
If we would truly seek God, the true God, and live by His plan, we would have harmony, and love. We are not strong enough to get there without Him; as much as we would like to think we are. We are not strong enough to be totally independent of everything and everybody. That is why we have community and church; to be here for each other and lean on God. Let us be here for you and let God.
Some call God a crutch for the weak and feeble. I say they are right. If by crutch they mean something that helps me stand when I don’t have the strength; or they mean something that helps me walk when I don’t have the means; or they mean something that helps me get through life when I fall short of being able to do it myself; then I say: YES, YES God is a crutch! I am not too proud to admit I need a crutch. I am NOT independent of God and neither are you. Today I declare to be my dependence day for I depend on God and God alone! Maybe we ought to write a Declaration of Dependence?
Total independence is a pipedream. We all depend on something. So I ask you, what are you going to depend on to make it though life?