Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thankful for a Church that Bucked the Trend

My brother thought it necessary to cheer me with this article from the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/us/22pastor.html?_r=2&hp)concerning the perceived reluctance (some would say "discrimination") of modern churches (non-Catholic of course) to hire single pastors. April 5th marks my 24th (yep, you read that right!) anniversary of when my church called me as their Education-Youth-Associate Pastor. This September will mark my 19th anniversary of being called as the senior pastor. That breaks the record of the next longest tenure by seven years.

When I share this with people who aren't from Denmark, they usually raise an eyebrow or two. I tell them that the church keeps me around because I'm less expensive to "keep up" than a married guy. Seriously, I am thankful to have a loving church family who was willing to take a chance to buck the trend of having to have a married pastor. I think that they are still fairly happy with that decision.

I have been told by married pastor friends that I may have ruined the church for the "next" pastor just because my time availability will be hard to provide by a married man with a family. I guess I can live with that risk.

I am also thankful that my Abba Father has graciously allowed me the privilege to serve here despite that I might be defying "the logic of Scripture and the centrality of marriage in society,” which some (see quote by Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the SBC's second largest seminary, in the article) say justify “the strong inclination of congregations to hire a man who is not only married but faithfully married.”

This isn't to pick an argument with anyone, but just a note of thanksgiving for my ministry. I hope you are equally thankful for yours, no matter what your marital status!

Note: To see what Paul thinks about single Christians, check out 1 Corinthians 7....pretty interesting stuff!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Don't Be a Freight Train!

Yesterday as I approached The Oaks retirement center to visit some church members, I pulled over to finish a phone conversation, and to take some pictures. The center has a serene corridor of oaks at the entrance including a walking path and benches which make for a peaceful setting (perfect for finishing up a phone call!). See what I mean...Suddenly, the railroad crossing signals began to blink and clang, and then the blast of a freight train. I wasn't that far from the tracks, so the noise definitely disrupted my conversation.

While talking to my friend, a sermon illustration hit me (better than the train hitting me for sure!). The train reminded me of how easy it is for well-meaning (well sometimes) Christians to tackle an issue with such fierce meanness, that they shut down all dialogue about the issue. It's so hard to have a decent dialogue with a freight train coming through the conversation, yet the effect is the same when our passion for a cause manifests itself in shouting and stomping our feet.

Sure, we need to get angry sometimes, but we need to make sure it's at the RIGHT time, toward the RIGHT object, and for the RIGHT reason. Someone once defined true spiritual meekness in just that way. We need to get angry as Jesus did! When He got angry, it usually involved those religious people who got angry at everyone else (i.e. Pharisees). You don't see Jesus "going off on" the women at the well, Zacchaeus the tax cheat, or the woman caught in adultery. Think about that last one! She was guilty, but Jesus' response to the angry religious mob who dumped her at His feet is a wake-up call to many; "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." (John 8:1-11) Sure, He deals with her sin..."go and leave your life of sin," but He is kind to her!

Freight trains are not kind. They aren't usually loving, or joyful, or peaceful, or gentle, etc. (You know, the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22,23.) Finally, just because a person is "right" on a particular subject, does it give him or her the right to be mean? Didn't Paul (under the Spirit's inspiration) write in 1 Cor. 13 that being right (i.e. "can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge") without love still leaves you with nothing? Pretty powerful words!

Do we give into sin? Of course not, but we better make sure we're not being freight trains on the warpath for sawdust in other people's eyes while we've neglected to see the planks of our own sin in our eyes. Love people! That's why we're here! Our Father (Who is really good at it) will show you how!

Pretty Powerful Story Teller!

A friend sent this to me today, and I am sure that lots of other folks will be sending it to me in the coming weeks, so this blog is "partially" an attempt to keep my inbox manageable. Seriously, this little girl has a gift. I don't think she was using a teleprompter, but even if she was, her story-telling abilities are pretty impressive...as is her conclusion. Enjoy, and then ask our Father if you're telling His story with as much passion as this little girl!

Want to know more about Mary Margaret? Here is a news story on her:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Are You Getting Better?

NO, I haven't ordered an Ipad2 yet (you can't until March 11th!), and I probably won't. The upgrades are nice, but the next "evolution" is expected to be greater still. What I do want to bring to your attention is this. Wait, first, watch this video:

If you are not a technogeek, you might not be impressed, but if you are, or if you own an Ipad, you know that it is a pretty versatile "gadget." I could write several, uh, many, posts on how I've used mine in the past nine months. But that's not the point. Oh, wait, click on this video clip...

So if you had an Apple IIc now...well, you couldn't do anything with it. Apple, like any successful company, continues to improve it's products. Well, Christian can never improve on the "product" of salvation, but are we improving in the depth of our experience with Christ AND with our ability to communicate His message to the world? We demand improvement in whatever we buy, but how often are we quick to accept stagnant relationships with Christ, and communication techniques that no longer work?

Paul wrote to the Philippians, "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (1:9-11)

Hmmm, doesn't sound like you get saved, and remain the same, does it? Throughout the New Testament, believers are called to be disciples, and disciples by their very definition, are students who are expected to GROW and LEARN and ADD to what they already have learned and/or experienced in Christ. God never intended for Ipads to share His Gospel, He expects (and equips) his children to, but I think He's okay with his children using Ipads to share Christ with the lost and encourage believers. Why wouldn't He?

No, you don't need to rush out and get an Ipad, but you do, if you consider yourself obedient to the Lord, need to grow in your faith and in your willingness and ability to communicate it. We are commanded to grow and improve by following Christ, and becoming more and more (get that...progressive, additive, exponential transformatino) like Him as we are empowered by His Spirit, guided by His word, and connected to and encouraged by His church. This is God's will for all believers.

The gospel never changes, but if we are never willing to change, to grow, or to improve in communicating that gospel, what excuse will we have when we finally see Christ face to face. "Sorry, Lord, but I was too busy researching the best TV (or substitute computer, washing machine, etc.) to buy. Oh, and it took a lot of time reading and practicing how to improve my golf game, too. And watching the Food Channel to learn new ways to cook, that took up time; you didn't want my family to get bored at mealtime did you? I just didn't have time to learn and improve on how I could communicate your love to a lost and dying world in a way they could relate to."

So pray for improvements in your walk with Christ and in the ways you communicate His love and salvation to those who need it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Being Positive Makes Your Live Longer!

Duke University confirms biblical teaching! Christ said, "Don't worry about anything." (Matt. 6:25-34) Paul said, "Focus on thinking about good and great things." (Phil. 4:8) The researchers at Duke University says doing that makes you live longer. Here is the link: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/optimistic-heart-patients-live-longer/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Trusting Christ as Savior makes you live forever! So go be optimistic (which is just another word for saying you really, really do trust our Father and what He says about life and you)! You may be facing difficult circumstances that I can't imagine, and you may think this is a bunch of garbage because you've either had to or are enduring a lot of pain and suffering. No, I can't understand your situation, but neither can I understand how the famous psychiatrist Viktor Frankl endured the horrors of being in Nazi concentration camps for three years, losing all of his family to torture and the gas chambers (except his sister who escaped), and still emerging with hope. A few favorite quotes:

  • "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
  • "When we are no longer able to change a situation – just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer – we are challenged to change ourselves."
  • "Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp."
His book, "Man's Search for Meaning" was declared as one of the ten most influential books in the U.S. by a survey taken by the Library of Congress. Half of the book is his recounting his day-to-day experiences in the concentration camps. If he could learn to focus on the good above what he saw, then why can't we? Here is a short clip of a presentation he made almost 40 years ago.

I pray that we all would find our meaning in life in Christ, and then allow Him to change the way we think about Him, ourselves, others, our purpose...well, you get the idea!