Monday, February 01, 2016

Be Encouraged

I guy I know bought a new, nice truck. A big truck. It doesn't have an alarm and he would like to have one for this new, nice, big truck. He posted a picture the other day of the truck with two big, mean-looking dogs tied to it. That's his alarm until he can get one installed.

Figuring out how to do something in a new or different way is a good trait to have. Sometimes bailing wire, duct tape, and WD-40 aren't the fix your situation needs.

Serving a church is like that, sort of.

We have a tendency to do things like we've always done them. And if something goes wrong the fix is the same old fix. More of the same stuff that often brought you to your current situation.

Even the "new" fixes are often just duct tape with a new design. It looks new, different. But it accomplishes nothing different.

Then there are those folks that take a big swing at it. Like the baseball player that isn't hitting well so he just swings harder. Or kicks his leg higher. Or waggles his bat more. Or revamps the whole swing. Church leaders like to do that, too.

Paul wrote a letter to Timothy. Two of them, in fact. The aging apostle was preparing his young protege for ministry on his own. In 2 Timothy 4:2-5 Paul gives this advice that was good then and is still good today. The warning applies today, too.

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

No matter what, preach the Word. When the people respond, preach the Word. When the people don't, preach the Word. When ministry is noticeably effective, preach the Word. When you can't tell, preach the Word. When the message is welcomed, preach the Word. When the message is rejected, preach the Word.

I don't have answers to all the questions a church leader may have. But I do know this: preaching the Word is always right.

So be encouraged, Pastor! Even when you don't know what to do you can be sure that faithfully preaching the Word will help.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Time and Time

Just a thought running through my head after preaching Sunday about time and hearing a sermon about time yesterday.

The New Testament has a couple of Greek words that are often translated "time." One is chronos - as in chronology. This is the word for minutes, hours, etc. It's the word used in "What time is it?"

The other is kairos. It means a special moment, an opportunity, a. It's the word used in "We live in an interesting time."

My question is this: Does every chronos have a kairos? Does every second afford an opportunity. Does every minute have a moment?

Paul uses the phrase "make the most of every opportunity" twice in his letters. Once in Ephesians and once in Colossians. The word there is kairos so opportunity is a good translation.

If God is sovereign - and he is - and if God has a master plan - and he does - then doesn't every chronos have a kairos?

Each day has 86,400 seconds. We all get the same. Nobody gets more than you. What we do with our time is of ultimate importance is we believe every chronos has a kairos - and I do.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Some Important Questions


Our Bible study last night at Cross Road was in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament book of Hebrews. (I started to say Hebrews 12 but given that Donald Trump stumbled over familiar-to-Christian biblical recitations I thought I should just spell it out; but is that really how you spell 12th? Spell check says so.) The previous chapter documents many Old Testament saints' faithfulness. None of them were perfect and that's not what made them perfect. Their faith led to obedience which led to the commendation.

They weren't perfect nor was their faithfulness perfect. But they were listed in the Faith Hall of Fame anyway. That encourages me.

Then as you read chapter twelve you'll find an emphasis on endurance. Why? Because the life of faithfulness is not easy. It's like a race (as Paul says in a letter to Christians in Philippi) and you must prepare for it. We have to keep our focus on Jesus because so many things can keep us from living faithfully.

I asked our study group last night what might keep us from living faithfully. Their answers included pride, selfishness, and a bunch of other attitudes. So we can focus on the temptations and pressures around us or we can focus on Jesus. I wonder which is best?

To stay focused on Jesus we need to spend time in prayer each day. We need to read and study the Bible regularly. We need to share our lives with others who are also trying to live faithfully. We need to avoid clear pitfalls full of temptation; like the media we access or people we hang out with. And we need to share with others that we follow Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Some of those people we need to share with will probably be some of the same people who have gone along with us falling for temptation. So it's all the more important to keep our eyes focused on Jesus.

All the Old Testament saints listed form a "great cloud of witnesses" so I can know what it means to be faithful. They are joined by New Testament saints and even faithful saints who have lived (and died) over the last 20 centuries.

Even some of my heroes of the faith - men and women who have made a direct impact on my Christian walk - are part of that crowd.

Are you aware that you have a responsibility to be in that crowd for others? You should have people ahead of you in this Christian race that you look to and you should have people behind you that look to you for help and encouragement.

Paul told believers in Corinth to follow his example as he followed Christ. And he told Timothy to pass along to others what Paul had taught him.

This great cloud of witnesses is made up of people who have gone before us to whom we look for help and encouragement, and people journeying with us that we team with to carry out faithful living, and people coming behind us who look to us for help and encouragement.

Are you focused on Jesus so you can be found faithful? Do you have mentors that help and encourage you? Are you partnered with other believers in a local church? Who are you mentoring so they can also live faithfully?

I think these are some of the most important questions we can consider today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

An Honest Word

We like to play our cards close to the vest. Keep our emotions in check. Don't let the others see you sweat. Fake it until you make it.

Side note: I can't stand that last one. I heard it in a previous job from a person who was in leadership.

These statements indicating our nature to not disclose everything is true of many of us. But then there are the folks on the other side who have absolutely no poker face at all. They are a "what you see is what you get" person. You immediately can tell what they are thinking and they quickly tell you, too.

I tend to be the first person. Not trying to hide anything just trying to display confidence. In my days as a trainer for a call center I told my classes, "If you say anything confidently enough, people will believe you." I followed that with, "Now, you have to tell the truth. Tell the truth confidently!"

Confidence is a good trait for a leader even when the future is uncertain. Honesty is a good trait, too. The Bible says that Jesus is the truth and that truth will set you free. So as a believer I am free and that breeds confidence. I'm confident in Jesus, the truth.

I wish life was that easy…just be faithful based on the confidence we have in Jesus. And it can be but times come along when you sort of know what to do but are not sure how to proceed. What do you do?

I have friends who say we just live by faith without any regard for planning and just let God handle the details. I also have friends who say walking by faith does not negate personal responsibility to care for yourself and your family. I think they are both right, but it's hard to find balance.

Today is one of those days when I know I've heard from God but circumstances loom large. Like Peter, I want to get out of the boat. Like Peter, I'm prone to watch the waves instead of the Master of the sea.

So do I want to experience Jesus holding my hand during uncertainties or do I want to watch from my seat in the boat?

How does faith grow? By being faithful. Exercise what faith you have and your faith will be stronger. Exercise that faith and it will be stronger still. As I trust God I can trust him more.

And let me be clear, acting in faith or having a believing faith does not presume God will do what I want. Faith is putting my desires aside and longing for what God wants.

I've been a Christian for more than 43 years and I'm still working on this.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Missed

The Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks played a NFL Wildcard game yesterday. The weather was…interesting. Sunny skies with sub-zero temperatures. The game was more interesting. The over/under for total score was 20. With just a few seconds left on the clock, Minnesota had a chance to push the score over and also win the game with a 27 yard field goal. The kicker missed the game-winning field goal, Seattle ran out the clock, gamblers who picked under were ecstatic.

Have you ever done something that brought on a disaster? Well, to some people it was a disaster. To others it secured victory. Some booed you and others cheered.

At the time I thought, "This was the only 27 yard field goal the kicker has ever missed in his NFL career." With a recent rule change, extra points are now longer than that. I looked up his stats and for field goals 29 yards and shorter, he has missed one. It was Sunday's potential game winner.

It would be easy and natural to focus on the negatives. Missed short field goal. Laces out! End of season.

Or we could focus on the positives. Three field goals and nine points in the game. All of Minnesota's points. For the season, he was 34 of 39 and for his four-year career he is 121 of 142. That's an 85% success rate. But it isn't all the made field goals or the 21 missed in his career or the 5 misses this season that are the focus. It's the one miss Sunday.

You probably don't like it when people focus on your negatives. I don't. But people do it. We even do it to ourselves. And often the result is an attitude that we can't do anything good. We feel like losers because we lost once.

The Bible says you are created in God's image. God knew you before you were born and has a plan for your life. God has plans for you to thrive. Your sins don't have to disrupt all this because Jesus died for your sins and God offers you salvation from the destructive result of sin.

Sure, you can live your life with little or no hope, with little or no purpose. Or you can live as God intended with great hope and purpose. Even in the wake of failure.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Memories

A friend having a birthday quipped that he's old enough to forget what he's doing at the moment but he can remember the past very well. I understand how that works! I can walk down the hall - which takes all of 5 seconds - and forget what I'm going for.

I remember getting hit in the face and in the head by baseballs. I remember being so proud to draw a walk instead of striking out that I was almost picked off first base. (I didn't get there much.) I remember both times I got whippings in school. I remember some of the great decisions I've made. I remember all the bad ones.

As I turn the page on the calendar each day I am often face to face with a memory. Friends and family surround my mind's eye when I see a date on the calendar. I am grateful for that even though not all the memories are good ones.

I use to say this: I am where I am because of where I've been. I am today a composite of all those memories, even the ones I forgot. How I view the world and react to situations have developed over time. Just like my shirt size is a result of what I eat, my life today is a result of my having lived.

The world we live in is broken by sin. Each one of us is a sinner. What the world needs and what we need is redemption and restoration. The Bible promises that a day will come when all of creation will be redeemed or restored to the perfection of God's original work. The Bible also says that I am already being restored by the transforming work of God's Spirit in my life.

It's the same for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin. We are being changed. Although my memories of my mistakes are some of my most vivid ones, I'm not who I was. Those mistakes do warp my life but Jesus makes it right. I'm not perfect - you can find plenty of witnesses to that fact! - but I'm being perfected. And like the Apostle Paul I will press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me (Philippians 3:12).

If you see me wandering around Walmart would you please speak to me and remind me how to get home?

Monday, January 04, 2016

Writing Project

So it's 2016 and I've decided to do something big and out of the ordinary (for me). Throughout the year I will write and write and write. If you read this blog regularly you know that I am sporadic with my postings. Not only in the thoughts I write about but the frequency.

This writing project will require and broad range of topics. I'll have to research and think and plot and plan. And I'll have to write more frequently, as much as three days a week.

You'll probably never see the finished product. It won't be published and placed in a library. It won't become an e-book. But a few people will see it, hopefully read it, and be encouraged by it. Don't ask for a copy. When I'm finished I will give it away. I won't have a copy, not even a file on a thumb drive.

I topped the hill several years ago. I'm headed down the slope of life. Don't think I'm morbid and hinting at a diagnosis, that's not the case. It's just that I'm past the halfway mark of the average lifespan of males in the US. Mostly likely, I am past the 2/3 mark, too.

Since life is but a vapor anyway - here today and gone tomorrow - what's left of my life is really short. None of us are promised another day so that could make the rest of my life really, really short. Even our tomorrows may be clouded by dementia so life could get really, really, really short. That makes me think about heritage and legacy. What can I pass along that will last longer than my life on earth? What can I do to impact the lives of those I love and the ones they love?

So I'm writing.

After I publish this post I have to look for my keys.