Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ENDURANCE- You Need to Stay!

During World War II as the persecution of Jews increased, Austrian psychologist Victor Frankl had the opportunity to go to America and avoid the imminent threat of suffering. His parents were thrilled for him, but he struggled with the question: Should I leave my parents behind in Gestapo-controlled Austria? He asked God to give him a hint from heaven.

One day Victor's father, who knew nothing of his son's inner turmoil, brought him a piece of marble taken from a bombed out synagogue. It contained a small bit of writing that Victor recognized as being from the fifth commandment: Honor your father and mother.

This was the hint he had been looking for; Frankl decided to stayed. The decision was not without a price; he and his family were arrested and imprisoned. His parents died in concentration camps, and he himself spent years in Auschwitz. But he survived, and as a result he was able to provide strength and encouragement to millions through his writings—most notably his book Man's Search for Meaning.

He made the decision to stay—and paid a price for his choice.

We all wrestle with the decision to stay or go. It is a major life decision.

I had a couple make a major life decision to go to another state to pursue a job opportunity. It was a wrong choice. They came sheepishly back, embarrassed and hiding. I sought them out and told them I loved them and they were welcome back. They returned to us for a season.

‘and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ (Hebrews 12:1)

But there is probably no greater place where one wrestles with this than in the ministry. Pastors who are trying to decide to stay or go….

When is his time up?
Has he ‘taken them as far as he can?’
Is there somewhere else his services would be better appreciated?
Does the grass really look greener over on that side of the fence?

The answer to these questions can often be found in the answer to another:

Are you running to avoid pain, or running to gain the prize?

If your reason for wanting to go is simply to avoid something unpleasant, that might be a hint that God is calling you to stay. In the race marked out for you, there will be times when you must take a bold step of faith into the unknown. And there will be times when you must take an even bolder step of faith into the known. And defiance of the call to the face of certain struggle.

Sometimes our best decision is to stay. Greener pastures may be calling us elsewhere, but our true calling is right where we are. Staying doesn't often result in glory and honor. In fact, it's more likely to result in suffering and hardship. And, yet, it is in choosing to stay that we most often do the most good.

Are you struggling with a stay or go decision? Ask yourself: which takes me closer to the prize?

Monday, April 24, 2006

A night of Intimacy with the Lord-

it was a great night at The Altar- sweet, sweet Spirit

great worship led by Brad-

great songs by Misty Edwards-

remembering my first romance with the Lord-

remembering my first dance with Him-

dancing with Him again!

What have we done?

This was sent to me about blunders the church has made. I pray we learn by our mistakes and recover to be a vital and relevant church for our culture and time!

It's never too late to learn from our blunders. Here are 7:

(1) We've made unbelief a doctrine. While third-world nations believe God for New Testament results, we teach our seminary students that God doesn't do miracles anymore.

(2) We've tolerated division. Who needs the devil when we're so adept at hating one another in the name of denominational loyalty?

(3) We've cultivated a religious spirit. We've taught that Christianity is about avoiding things like smoking and drinking. As a result we've lost our joy, because intimacy with God cannot be achieved through performance.

(4) We've encouraged "super stars." Consequently, some of our preachers have stopped modeling servanthood, and forgotten that Jesus washed feet and rode on a donkey.

(5) We've equated money with success. We've found a way to 'theologize' greed, instead of using our God-given prosperity to feed the poor and reach the world with the Gospel.

(6) We've stayed in the pews and become irrelevant. We freak out when somebody uses rap or rock music to reach the younger generation. Instead of engaging the culture we're hiding from it.

(7) We've taught people to be escape-artists. Instead of "occupying till He comes," we'd rather be astronauts and fly away. We read rapture novels when we should be praying for those living on the verge of martyrdom. Why can't we have their kind of faith? We can - if we're willing to pay the price and commit ourselves fully to God!

Build YOUR church, O Lord!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

ENDURANCE- Don’t get tripped up!

It was THE race everyone was waiting for. It was the 1984 Summer Olympics, Mary Decker and the barefoot running Zola Budd. Decker was heavily favored to win a gold medal at the Olympics, held at Los Angeles. In the 3000 meters final, Budd, running barefoot half a stride ahead of Decker, moved to the inside lane, inadvertently crowding Decker, who collided with Budd and fell spectacularly to the curb. Decker's hip was injured and she was unable to resume the race. She was carried from the track by her future husband. At a press conference she said that Budd, who finished 7th, was to blame for the collision. After review, it was found that Budd was not to blame for the collision. But both women’s dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal were destroyed.

Gal 5:7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? NIV

Gal 5:7 You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? TMB

Gal 5:7 You were running the race nobly. Who has interfered in (hindered and stopped you from) your heeding and following the Truth? AMP

All these verses give a rendering of the KJV word ‘to hinder.’ It is anakopto- to strike, impel. To beat or drive back, hinder. It is an Olympic expression related to a race, meaning to come across the course in such a manner as to jostle and throw a participant out of the way.

One thing that we all have to watch in our Christian walk, especially Pastors, is someone, it could even be ourselves, tripping us up in the Call of God on our lives. It has happened all too often among ministers, they were doing great, very successful, and then WHAM!, someone cuts them off.

We know we have an adversary that is fighting us all the way and wants to defeat us, trip us up and knock us out of the race set before us. We have to guard ourselves and make sure that we give no place to him nor an active course of attack.

If we know that the major reasons that pastors get tripped up and knocked out of the race are conflict, burnout, and sexual impropriety, you would think we would guard ourselves all the more diligently!

But no, another one bites the dust;
and dreams and the Calling are destroyed!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

ENDURANCE- Staying the course!

I am continuing my ponderings on a previous post regarding endurance and finishing well. In each of the 5k, 10k, and marathons I’ve run over the years they all had one thing in common- there was a marked course that you ran on and stayed on. You didn’t stray from the course or make your own, to do so meant disqualification.

There are those who have tried to cheat and been publicly humiliated when they were found out. One such case is Rosie Ruiz's "victory" in the 1980 Boston Marathon with a record time of 2:31:56. The real winner, Jacqueline Gareau of Canada, crossed the line in 2:34:28, but was essentially ignored by the media that flocked to interview Ruiz, who had crossed the line earlier. Apparently, Ruiz had dropped out of the race, hopped on the subway, got off about a mile from the finish line, and ran in from there. The effect was to rob Gareau of her moment of triumph, although she was later honored in a special ceremony a couple of weeks after the race. Second-place finisher Patti Lyons, whose 2:35:08 finish set a new American record, was also pretty much completely ignored.

Heb 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,… NKJV

NIV says, ‘let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’

This tells me that each of us have our own race to run with the course marked out specifically for us. I think that means fulfilling the ‘Call’ of God for our lives.

Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries reports that every week, 1,500 pastors in the USA leave their assignments because of conflict, burnout or moral failure. I don’t know if those figures are correct and current now. But they speak to me what I am talking about- that is getting off course at some point and not completing the race (or Call) marked for us.

What has God called you to do?
Are you being faithful to that call?
Are you staying on the course?
Are you in danger of losing sight of that call?
Are you looking to do something else or to get on another course?

In another post I will discuss why I think ministers leave, get off course, or seek greener pastures (another church or ministry opportunity).

Until then, continue to stay the course!

Monday, April 17, 2006

I love Easter Sunday!

He is not here!!! He is risen indeed!!!

What a great day we had yesterday! The place was packed to overflowing, chairs set out; many, many guests; great vibrant service, worship was right on, the video intro was outstanding, tears filled eyes, many gave their hearts to the Lord; an outstanding picnic, egg hunt, bounce houses, volleyball, 95 degree sun filled weather!

It was a pastor's delight. The staff and volunteers did exceptional! They were at it when I arrived at the church. Henry did a great job cooking 20 briskets, sausage, and turkey on his smoker (it's a Texas thing!).

I was overwhelmed by the success of the day. I was a kingdom impacting kind of day!

I arrived home and took a much needed nap. And then capped off the exciting day by watching 'Chronicles of Narnia' with Debi. Once again we were reminded of what Easter is all about and brought to tears ourselves!

I plan on continuing Easter every Sunday!

Every Sunday should be a big event Sunday!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

ENDURANCE- the key to finishing well!

This picture is of Debi and me after I completed the NY City Marathon in 1992 (14 years ago, we were young once). The yellow hat was so she could spot me out of the 20,000 people that ran that day. I had run 4 marathons previously. Yes, I finished all of them.

One of the things that I received at the marathon was a T-shirt. Believe it or not, I still have it or what’s left of it. The shirt had the following written on it:

ENDURANCE - The ability to withstand hardship, adversity or stress, i.e. NY City Marathon.

It was true then and is still so true now. That phrase has always been an inspiration to me. I trust it will be to you also.

The Apostle Paul saw life as a race- not a sprint but a marathon. It doesn’t matter how fast you start but it does matter that you finish! It takes endurance to succeed in ministry. In fact, endurance is needed in every area of life.

2 Tim. 4:1-5 TMB
I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the judge. With the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.

You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you have doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.

Paul went on to tell Timothy to take over for him as he was finishing his race. He was ready for the crown, God’s applause and the shouting (TMB)!

All of us are in that race! How you finish is going to determine what is remembered about you!

Be encouraged, don’t give up- as I have thought about doing a few times, but finish what God has for you to do. Then you too will hear the shouting and God’s applause; not here but there!

After all, isn’t that where it really matters for all of eternity?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pastor's Wife 0 - Satan 1

a funny:

A pastor was berating his wife for spending $250 on a new dress. "How could you do that?" he asked.

His wife replied, "Well, I was just trying it on when Satan whispered in my ear, 'That looks really good on you'."

"You know what to do in a situation like that," the pastor said. "You just say 'Satan get behind me'."

"I did!" his wife wailed, "But then he said, 'It looks good from the back, too'!"

Saturday, April 08, 2006

New Theology- BE DIFFERENT! Part 2

This is an addition to what I previously wrote concerning the 'BE DIFFERENT' mentality that is current in the Church. This is from a local new church plant as advertised by them:
"We are a different kind of church from what you probably are used to.

First, we believe it is okay to worship God in your own way. We won't try to put you in a box.

Second, we want you to come just as you are. If you are comfortable in jeans, then that's fine with us.

Third, and most importantly, we're not here to put you on a guilt trip. We all have our hangups. We gather together to be refreshed, encouraged, and blessed by the presence of God.

Maybe you have tried church before, and really didn't like what you found.

Well, we would like for you to give _________ a try this Sunday. Who knows...we might be just what you have been looking for!"

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The New Theology- BE DIFFERENT!

A new church plant in the Metroplex named itself quite simply ‘The New Church.’ Another around here called itself ‘The Church of Arlington,’ with emphasis of ‘The Church’ as if there were no others.

Have you noticed how all the ‘new’ churches that are being planted have one thing in common- they are all trying to be more different than anybody else? This distinctive has become the reason for existence. It used to be a church would promote the Kingdom of God, or theology, or denomination. But now it is ‘we are more different’ than everyone else. In fact, as they promote this distinctive they unwittingly denigrate the other existing churches. It as if the further you can distance yourself from the ‘norm’ the better able you are to penetrate the culture and offer them something that only you have. It means all the others have failed and now you have the inside tract ‘from God’ on what will work. We are so brash, cavalier, and puffed up about ourselves and our importance!

We are now being reduced to attacking our Brothers in Christ and their archaic methodology much like Pepsi would attack Coke. It is as if we now view each other as the enemy and therefore create the illusion that we are not of the same Kingdom!

I often wonder how God views His fragmented body, The Church. Jesus said He would build His church but then we got a hold of it and ran with our own plans of what it is to be like.

No one likes being characterized as that other church, the out of date church, the ancient church, the out of step church, the has been church, the 'Ichabod' church, and on and on with the name calling.

Dave Terpstra, pastor of The Next Level Church (sic, notice the name) in Denver said the following:
“But we are in the business of Christ and His Kingdom, and there is no benefit in smearing one expression of the Bride of Christ to make our version look more appealing to religious consumers.”

Someday, hopefully, we will see ourselves as the one church, with the one mission, one vision, and the world being greatly impacted by us. Until then we will advertise to a consumer mentality and church hopping constituency who are looking to their own needs instead of reaching out to a lost world whom we are largely missing.

And, by the way, we will tout how 'right we' are by looking at the numeric transfer growth we have accomplished as some divine sanction that we are on the right tract, this time for sure! That, in and of itself, reinforces that ‘we are right to be different’ and ‘they are all wrong’ new theology!

God help us!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Bluetooth Wireless Headsets- Expensive

This guy found a cheap alternative!