Celebrating Stones Of Remembrance

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In 1 Samuel 7, there is a story where God defeated Israel’s enemies. After the victory, Samuel erected a stone of remembrance and said, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” Year after year when Israelite families would journey past this monument, and children asked, “Dad, what does that big stone mean?” They could be reminded of God’s protection and provision… and they could celebrate.

We setup our own stone of remembrance at church last night. We took an evening to gather together and celebrate what God did for us in 2008 —

  • People became followers of Jesus Christ and began their discipleship journey, others became disciple-makers.
  • We offered our first Vacation Bible School, and made great relationships with the families in our neighborhood. 
  • Our Back 2 School party provided bags and bags of school supplies to area students. 
  • Light The Night was a great alternative to a dark-and-scary Halloween night. 
  • The Gift told the true story about the greatest gift. 
  • We were able to show the true meaning of CHRISTmas to some special families.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! What a joy it is to know that “thus far has the Lord helped us.” And what anticipation energizes me as I’m already looking forward to an even bigger stone of remembrance next time!

There are so many people to thank. I won’t start naming them all here (you know who you are!) so that I don’t accidentally leave some people out. But I do want to single out my wife Betsy. She is my constant companion, my best friend, my favorite playmate, my wisest counselor, my daily encouragement, and a great pastor’s wife… Baby, I couldn’t celebrate all of these stones of remembrance without you!

‘Brothers And Sisters The Same’

I love my “Coffee With The Pastor” times every Tuesday! Yesterday a relatively new Christian (and a great friend), Barney Fritcher, shared with me his heartache over people who snipe and bicker and complain about their church. In Barney’s short time being a follower of Jesus Christ, he’s attended two churches which have closed their doors as a direct result of infighting. How incredibly sad!

God has given Barney a great gift of poetry. After our conversation yesterday, he penned the following lines that are just too good not to share with you —

 

Look around at the sign of the times
churches are closing their doors
is it because God has left them
or because of internal wars

There’s people trying to find the Savior
but they don’t know where to go
one says, “this church is a good one”
another says “no, it ain’t so”

What happens when the doors lock
what happens to the lost soul
is this what Jesus was all about
was fancy carpet His real goal

Does anyone know where God truly is
did He tell you while deep in prayer
does He need stained glass windows
for Him to be present there

If Jesus Himself came to your church
do you think that they’d let Him in
or would they say, “that’s outrageous
the people He’s with commit sin”

Do you think that you’ve overcome
that you’re a sinner no more
if that’s what you think, I’m sorry
Jesus has something for you in store

We all are sinners each and everyone
none of us are innocent and pure
if you think that you are different
I don’t think that you are so sure

So before you go pointing your finger
before you go laying the blame
remember what it says in the Bible
we are brothers and sisters the same

 

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! — The Bible: Psalm 133:1, The Message

Lingo

On Sunday nights I am teaching a series called “Huh?” It’s a practical set of talks geared to help us all increase our level of effective communication.

One huge hurdle to effective communication is the lingo into which we so easily slide. The dictionary defines lingo: a characteristic language of a particular group that is unfamiliar to those outside that group.

Last night — even as I am teaching on effective communication — I discovered how guilty I am of using Church Lingo. After our service was over, my daughter Samantha handed me an offering envelope on which she had written a Church Lingo lexicon.

Street Word           Church Lingo
Yes                          Amen
Mr. & Mrs.                Brother & Sister
Goodbye                  God bless
Ticked off                 Grieved
Sing                         Worship together

Ouch! A good reminder that I can so easily slip into Church Lingo and leave people all around me saying, “Huh?” I’m trying to get better. What about you? What Church Lingo have you heard (or adopted yourself) that needs to be changed?

Hearts Like Prisms

God once said, “Let the light shine out of the darkness!” This is the same God who made His light shine in our hearts by letting us know the glory of God that is in the face of Christ. —2 Corinthians 4:6, New Century Version

Today I was at the Flint Institute of Arts with my kids. There was a really cool exhibit made of hundreds of pieces of glass that cast a rainbow of colors all over the wall. Yet all of these colors sprayed across the wall are generated by just two lights.

This made me think, “How am I reflecting God’s light? Is my life a prism that accurately transmits God’s light and love to others? Or does my lifestyle make it difficult for people to see God?”

Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights. —Philippians 2:15, New Living Translation

I want people to see the brilliance of God’s love through me. How about you?

A Weird Week

We’re all creatures of habit. Even if you think you’re a spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda person, you still have routines and habits that make you you. I am no exception: I like my routines: they work for me: they help me keep my life (sorta) organized.

What happens when our routines are interrupted? Usually I go into Sulk Mode — I want things the way they are supposed to be! Or at least, I want things the way I want things!

This week I am being tested in this.

My kids had no school on Monday, no school today, and no school on Friday. Weird week. The kids have no school, but Betsy, along with the other teachers, have to report to school for in-service training. Weird week.

I began the week rather sulkily… My routines are all messed up… The kids have no school, but I still have all my work to get done… How am I going to get everything accomplished?!?

But then I realized that God had given me some “bonus time” to invest in some of the most important relationships I have. So I broke my routines… came out of my comfort zone… and I am enjoying these ‘weird’ moments.

  • On Monday the kids and I took a long, leisurely lunch at Taco Bell. Nothing fancy, just a lot of laughs around the table. In those unguarded, spontaneous moments, it’s amazing the insights I caught into my kids’ lives. 
  • On Tuesday I took Betsy out to dinner at our favorite restaurant. Quiet dinner, great reconnect time, and the food was pretty good too! During our dinner we moved into an incredible conversation that helped me clarify some stuff for church. I’m going to be able to tweak a couple of ministries that are going to re-energize me and our church.
  • Today I’m working from home. Not quite as convenient as the quietness of my office, but the laughter of kids in the background reminds me of why I really do what I do. 
  • Tomorrow we’re off to the Flint Institute of Arts to see the cool comic collection. Another wonderful opportunity to engage with my kids.

What do you do with the “weirdness” in your life? It’s just possible that God might be giving you an opportunity for insight, for re-energizing, for reconnecting, for reengaging with some very special people. Don’t let the “weirdness” of broken routines set you back, but use them to propel you forward.

Feel free to share your comments on what you do when your routines are interrupted.

Up!

Someone left this note on my office door yesterday morning. It sure encouraged me, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Wake up
Sing up
Preach up
Pray up

But never give up
Or let up
Or back up
Or shut up

Until the cause of Christ
in the world is built up

Super strength
Super peace
Super joy
Super whatever
For 2009!

Isn’t encouragement great!

When Nothing Is Something

I’m not a typical Type-A person, but I do find it very hard to take time off. As soon as I find I’m doing Nothing I’ve immediately got to start doing Something… Anything. When I’m doing Nothing I feel guilty. “Who do you think you are? What makes you so special that you can do Nothing! Everything is not finished, so get up and do Something. Do Anything. Just don’t do Nothing!”

By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done (Genesis 2:2-3).

God did Everything in six days. There wasn’t Anything left to do. So God did Nothing.

And yet that Nothing was Something special.

The Hebrew word for rest is shabath which means, “sit down and sit still.” Why? Was God tired? No, the resting is not Nothing; it is Something.

God paused from His work because He wanted to reflect on what He had accomplished. That’s the point. Doing Nothing is really doing Something. When we take a shabath we’re taking a day to reflect on God’s blessing, His provision, His faithfulness.

I did Nothing today. My Nothing was really Something special! I began the day by thanking God for all of the blessings in my life. And the more I gave thanks, the more reasons I realized I had to give thanks! After all that thanks-giving, I found that I had one of my most creative and encouraging days.

It’s amazing how Nothing can be a very special Something.

If you’re not already, find a day to do Nothing. I think you too will discover that Nothing is Something.

***A post script for my pastor friends. Just a reminder: If you have church services on Sunday, then Sunday is not your shabath… it’s a day you’re doing a whole lot of Something. Find another day to do Nothing. God will bless the rest of your week when you do.***

Even Greater Things

Another stream-of-consciousness posting. This is just how the Holy Spirit speaks to me, and I hope it will be helpful to you too.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” —Jesus (John 14:12)

“God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible—what a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” —A.W. Tozer

“I don’t want to live my life in a way that the best I can do is the best I can do.” —Mark Batterson, in Wild Goose Chase

“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” —Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets Of The Portuguese

I’m dreaming big dreams today … dreams of ‘even greater things’ … impossible dreams that would fail unless God helps me. What about you?

Exponential Prayer

p3-logoExponential (ěk’spə-něn’shəl)  adj.  any positive constant raised to a power.

I met this morning with our P3 team — Pastor’s Prayer Partners — for an incredible time of challenge and prayer. These folks are awesome! They meet with me to pray before every one of our services, and they each take a day during the week to pray for me and my family. I can feel the effect of their prayers on my daily activities.

Prayer is the positive constant; my prayer partners raise prayer to a higher power… an exponential power! I cannot thank these prayer warriors enough!

Understanding Misunderstanding

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Miscommunication is nothing new. From the dawn of history people have always struggled to understand exactly what the other person was saying to them. That’s because we all have our own “accents” — our own way of getting our message across.

This is hard enough when trying to discuss something like politics, relationship likes/dislikes, or even movie preferences. But what about when you’re trying to communicate something intangible? Like your personal faith.

Most Christ followers communicate their faith with the same “style” that they communicate their menu preferences, political persuasions, or music choices. But there is an added element of misunderstanding built in to the spiritual dimension. Even Jesus’ own disciples said “Huh?” many times to Him.

This Sunday, February 8, we begin a brand new series in our 6:00 PM service simply entitled Huh? We will be learning some very practical ways to communicate our faith to others by learning their unique communication style. If you have ever felt that you’re just not getting through, feel free to join us.

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