Monday, February 27, 2006

Pastoring = Jail Time?

The graphic at the left is the ad for an upcoming conference on Pastoring and The Law. No, not the Law of Moses but the law of the US. There seems to be a rising movement against the Church and what it preaches and teaches. You have those that are saying that we- the church, the Pastors- are intolerant, preach hate, and should be apolitical (having no interest or involvement in political affairs). They are saying that we need to be silenced and the only way of doing that is threatening us with arrest and jail time.

I enjoy the freedom that is afforded us here in this country. Believe me, after traveling the world, I am thankful for these freedoms. I want them maintained as much as the next guy, and I am ready to be active in their protection.

But, what if we should be thrown in jail? We will join the likes of Jesus, Peter, Paul, Dietrich Bonnhoffer, and countless others before us and at present that have been incarcerated for their faith in Jesus Christ.

I really don't have a martyr complex but I am well aware of what Jesus said:
I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19 NIV
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:20 NIV

Lord, may I remain ever faithful to you!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Confrontation = Reconciliation

"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God."

"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back." Matt 18:15 NLT

I was sharing with my leadership team on the principles of Mt. 18 in regards to handling conflict that occurs between members of the Body of Christ. Jesus was very direct in how He taught it should be handled. But, we fail to do it His way. We don't go to the person as He said but go to others or don't go at all.

What is bad is that the one nursing the grudge is the one hurt by it. Jesus speaks of it affecting our worship and relationship with God. Plus the conflict causes the Holy Spirit to withdraw His peace from us and then we find ourselves subject to the continuous attacks of the enemy.

Jesus stressed in the context of the verses of Mt. 18 that if we bind/loose the conflict on earth it is bound/loosed in heaven. He is talking about the peace and reconciliation that is restored to the individuals and ultimately His Church.

God might get more done in us and through us if we followed the way of Jesus' teaching. After all isn't that what following Him is all about?

Listen to this advice:
"I've had a few arguments with people but I never carry a grudge. You know why? While you're carrying a grudge, they're out dancing." ~ Buddy Hackett

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ice! French Fries! Blessing!

They had predicted it for days. North Texas was going to get an ice storm. Maybe as much as 1/4 inch. Not much for my Northern friends, but for Texas drivers, dangerous. Plus for Texas Pastors, it was going to be on a Sunday!

That would mean traffic accidents with crumbled fenders, delays, slow going on the drive to work, poor church attendance on Sunday, and offerings down. All of these are bad. But the attendance on Sunday was a concern to me.

It was our annual State of the Church address. I have been doing these for the 15 years that I have pastored at the Vine. It is a time when we talk about the previous year, the finances for that year and the budget for the current year, and our goals. I have endeavored to be open and transparent in all areas of ministry at the Vine. The question, would anyone be there.

People did show up, but not the usual number. We were down considerably in both services. But, they showed up and we pressed ahead. My finance leader, Keith, was prepared with the pie charts and spread sheets. He shared how we fared in 2005 and shared the proposed budget for 2006. He did a great job as always. I spoke briefly at the end all the while hiding my disappointment with the attendance.

I struggled through the first service and decided to change my approach in the second. Be more positive, cut back what I said, and trust God.

One of the two financial goals that Keith suggested for the year was to pay off the property debt by the end of the year. In fact, he had faith to believe we could do it by July 4th. The small crowd gave a hearty "Amen."

With my French Fries in hand I gave an illustration about a little boy hoarding the French Fires his dad had bought for him. The point was, God gives us so much, wants to enjoy it with us, and we hoard and keep Him from joining us in the joy of it.

As I finished, Keith handed me a note that someone had handed to him. It read, I will pay off the debt on the property today. I was stunned, humbled and overwhelmed. Tears filled my eyes. I wanted to shout but I lacked the voice to do so.

I had just experienced another God moment in my life. A time when the Almighty bursts upon the frailty of human existence and shows who is God and what He can do if one but trusts Him.

Thank you Jesus!!!!!!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Friends- Not the TV Show

This is the day after 'the sad day.' Cuddles is gone and Debi, Jason and I are coping with the loss. The Lord has been gracious with His peace and comfort. What has helped are those friends who responded with much compassion, sympathy, and support!

A big thank you to all!

The Bible says it all so well:
Prov 17:17 Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. (TMB)

We felt the love of those who responded with comments, email, and personal contact.

It is great to be a part of God's big family of friends.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Today is a sad day-

I am having a sad day today. My stomach is in knots. Tears fill my eyes. I am feeling a sense of loss.

Many years ago, I had a couple in my office and they were ripping me up for being a bad pastor. I stopped them and told them they hurt my feelings. She responded, "You can't have hurt feelings because you are a pastor." Pastors don't have feelings? We are separate and apart from the rest of humanity?

Well, excuse me, I have feelings! And they are in a heightened state at this time. Debi has said her goodbyes, Jason will, and then me. We are having to put down our pet dog, Cuddles, today. She has been with us for 11 years. She was the runt of the litter, the last one. But Jason wanted a dog he could cuddle. Hence her name.

The vets diagnosis was not good last week. She is only functioning with about 25% of her kidneys. She is losing her eyesight and has doggy Alzheimers. He was convinced then that it was time. We weren't ready for that. Now a week later, she is not eating, running into walls and doors, falling down our stairs, gets herself trapped in corners, biting, and using the bathroom wherever she likes. I don't think she is going to make it to the weekend.

She has been a great dog, friend, lifeguard by our pool, jumping off the diving board, cuddling into our laps and at times our bed. She has been one of the family. She has brought much joy into our lives. And now this.

Loss is one of those things that we all experience in life. Jesus' promise to be with us at all times will be appropriated today. Today we are asking for His comfort and peace.

Thank you Lord for being an ever present help in time of need.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Life in a Fish Bowl

One thing about living in a fish bowl- there is no where that someone can't see you. No where to hide! You are always on display. There is always someone watching you.

That is the way ministry is; you are always on display! Someone is watching your every move. There is no grace for you if you slip up, after all, you should never slip up!

When I was a candidate for the Pastorate here at the Vine, there was a man on the Pulpit Search committee who had been a city manager of an area town. While interviewing me and asking very personal questions he stated that he was a public servant and his life was open to everyone and "so is a pastor's life!" Welcome to the open fish bowl of pastoring.

Paul knew we were being watched and conducted his life with that in mind. In fact he rose to the challenge by telling people to follow his example:
Follow my example , as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Cor 11:1 NIV

We as ministry leaders need to understand the nature of our calling to live before men in a fish bowl. When we like Paul understand the nature of ministry, we will endeavor to walk in a way pleasing to the Lord and not allow our actions or speech to bring a reproach to Christ.

I find the following verse one that speaks to how we conduct ourselves:
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, Eph 5:15 NKJV

CIRCUMSPECT stresses the surveying of all possible consequences before acting or deciding; watching one's life, looking at all the angles, guarding yourself.

WISE vs FOOLS- I believe that speaks for itself!

All this means as leaders we have to watch over ourselves at all times. We do live in a fish bowl and we have to remember:

Somebody is watching you!

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Ever wonder what stress a pastor might have? Just returned from Liberty Fellowship's Southwestern Regional Conference. Gerald Brooks, Senior Pastor of Grace Outreach Center, shared a dynamic and practical lesson for pastors.

He said the nature of leadership requires the leader to handle tension in three areas:
1. The tension of relationship.
2. The tension of turmoil.
3. The tension of personal life.

The tension of relationship and turmoil is played out almost daily for the pastor as he deals with church people, staff members, leadership team, struggles, etc. Gerald said that the average pastor resigns his church and leaves it because of conflict with just 3 people. With light hearted laughter but never the less true, he said that you are not really called to ministry unless you've inspired at least one prayer group that is praying for you to change. The pastor has to deal with people's hidden agendas, outright rebellion, and wrong attitudes. For pastors with staff Gerald said that he tells his staff that he has to encounter bad attitudes for free all the time and doesn't have to pay the staff for theirs!

The tension of personal life is critical to a pastor as he must conduct himself not only at church, in public, but at home in a manner of honor and integrity. His ministry hinges on this: if he can't direct his personal life and those in his home; how can he lead the church of God?

I can relate to these tensions in the ministry. These are things that can give you heartaches, headaches, and bellyaches!

God help me with the tensions of this life of ministry. Don't let them get to me but let me get through to you for strength and the ability to persevere and be more than a conqueror.

BTW, I love what I do in spite of the tensions!

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Grieving Dad's Plea to Fathers

Tony Dungy, the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, lost his 18-year-old son to suicide near the end of the Colts' 2005 season. At the funeral service at Idlewood Baptist Central on December 27, 2005, Dungy offered a heartbreaking appeal to fathers.

"God can provide joy in the midst of a sad occasion," he said. "And the challenge is to find that joy. I urge you not to take your relations for granted. Parents, hug your kids each chance you get. Tell them you love them each chance you get. You don't know when it's going to be the last time."

Tony Dungy last saw his son at Thanksgiving in Indianapolis. James Dungy was in a rush to get to the airport, and his father did not have a chance to hug him.

In a brief interview with the media after the funeral, Coach Dungy said, "James was a good young man with a compassionate heart. We were glad to have him for 18 years. We are also glad that he accepted Christ as his savior, so that God has him now for the rest of eternity."

You know Lord how I want to communicate the importance of the family to our young men of the church. They have found themselves as dads but not yet as a parents who give of their time, talents, trust in the nurturing and raising up of their children.

In a sense they are still children themselves playing more and parenting less.

I pray for Tony Dungy that he and his family will be comforted in their grief. I pray for the young dads of our church that they will wake up to their important role in their children's lives.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sign of the end times!

From Perth Australia comes this humor contribution. Rev. Gary Green said that this sign appeared in his neighbor's yard.

I think we get the message. But is there really any doubt?

Friday, February 03, 2006


So many people wanting a part of me. They all know how I am to do my job and expect me to meet their specific needs. They forget that they are but one of many. Yet their needs come first.

Is this really what Paul meant when he said we become all things to all people?

1 Cor 9:19-22
19 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people:
20 religious, nonreligious,
21 meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists,
22 the defeated, the demoralized — whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ — but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

I see my task as pastoring people to wholeness and purity in Christ.

The fact is that others do not see my task that way:
diapers to change
runny noses to wipe
cuts to bandage
meals to prepare
marriages to save
wayward children to bring back
straighten out spouses..............

Man, what am I doing sitting here writing, got to go, so much to do, up, up and away, this is a job for SuperPastor!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cell Phone - Making Life Easy?

Does owning a cell phone make ones life easier?

Ask the man washing his truck and talking to his son on his cell phone. He reaches down and feels the empty cell phone holder and panics. He's lost his cell phone! So he gets down on his knees to look into the floorboard of his truck for his cell phone. He's telling his son that he's lost his cell phone. His son replies, "Dad, you're talking to me on it." He pulls the cell phone away from his ear and looks at it then puts it back to his ear and tells his son he's right. Then he looks down at his trousers that are wet from the knees down from the water he knelt in.

Or how about the man who was in the mall talking to a salesman when his daughter calls him on his cell phone. He too discovers the missing phone from its holder. He walks out of the mall to his car thinking that he left it there. All the while he's talking to his daughter. He finally mentions that his cell phone is missing. His daughter says, "Dad, I called you on your cell phone!"

I was shopping with Debi during Christmas and while Debi was on one aisle I moved to the next. It was just me and a lady with a shopping cart. She was looking at items on one side of the aisle and I was across from her with my back to her. I then heard her say, "Hi, Hun." I froze! Was she propositioning me? What do I do? What do I say? I felt my face turning red as I glanced her way. She was talking on her cell phone to her husband. After she hung up, I said jokingly, "You sure scared me." She laughed and said that it happens all the time.

Cell phones- we talk on them:
while we're driving
on the elevators
in the restrooms
in the restaurant
in the theater
in church......

I think I will join SHHH!- Society for Handheld Hushing. They have a great solution: