Thursday, October 26, 2006
Wow, things were moving fast! Yet, I knew that even though very few things were making sense at this point, I was being awakened to a whole new world that would soon come into focus. I had to come to the realization that I didn't have to be on staff at some local church in a certain location to be in full time ministry. What a wake-up call. That's one of those things that I always knew...but I didn't know it! Know what I mean?
It was at this point in my life that I was reacquainted...reintroduced to my calling. That I was to go and do wherever the Holy Spirit directed...not to search out a certain position in a certain location. I had to go back to the beginning and take a long hard look at my spiritual inventory and the spiritual mile markers in my life.
Spiritual Gifts tests have always proven to me that I have two unique gifts: music/worship and evangelism. And not necessarily in that order. I have an indescribable passion for worship and to lead His people before His throne. Being a musician has always given me a vehicle for entering His presence at the highest level. My favorite place is to be in the 'zone' and imagine myself at His feet, with guitar in hand, singing my most intimate praise to Him. And to take others along with me for that ride is absolutely chilling. One day, I'll be able to stay in the 'zone'...
For my other gift, evangelism is not something I do...it's just me, it's a way of life. I'm the guy that slows up the checkout line at Wal-Mart because I'm telling the cashier just how great my Jesus is. Again, it's not something that I think about doing, or think I should be doing...I just do it...it just happens. So many people have this misconception that by inviting people to church is the same thing as witnessing...NO IT'S NOT. Witnessing is when you are so in love with Jesus Christ, that you can't help but tell others about Him and what He's done for you. The phrase that rings so true is "It's not about religion...it's about a relationship!" It's never been if you 'love' Jesus, it's are you 'in love' with Jesus. And fear has gripped the hearts and mouths of so many Christians that it's become difficult to share Christ with others.
Churches, in my experience, are notorious for putting so much pressure and demands on staff members, that it becomes difficult for them to actually 'minister'. Demands for office hours, 'job' requirements, attempting to please everyone (which by the way, can NOT be done), and so on, hinder many men from doing what God called them to do. And I'll be the first to admit that I've allowed it to happen to me to the point, that my focus has been more on churchy stuff, and not on God stuff. (This paragraph is a definite post in the making!) I found myself falling and falling deeper and deeper into a never-ending black hole...further and further away from my family, my calling and myself. Not only was I speeding in the wrong direction, I was asleep at the wheel...
Just like many a father over the years have taken their young sons outside to the woodshed for guidance and direction, so it was that my Heavenly Father had to grab me by the knapp of my neck and drag me out to His spiritual woodshed. And just like those other young men, I came away with a better...a much more clearer understanding of where I was and what I was supposed to be doing...I came out of it, a better, a much stronger man.
"You want me to what?"
"You heard Me."
"You want me to do what? You're sure? You know there is absolutely NO WAY I can do this myself."
"Now you're getting it. Remember what we've talked about...more of Me, less of you."
"More of me?"
"More of You, less of me. All of You, none of me."
Imagine that. Through years and years of secular work, business travel, church politics and dysfunctunal churches, I've been allowed to do something that I always had dreamed of doing. Having the freedom to be...do...go...daily as He calls me. Being in a place where I can be myself, be with my family, love my friends, make countless new friends and induldge in my favorite pastime...coffee. Being able to put 'feet to my prayers', to show others what a Christ-filled life is like in the real world, not secluded or condemned to stay behind the four walls of a church. I'm actually able to be part of His church for the first time in my life. Having a place where people can come in and be themselves...to laugh...to cry...to pray. A place where the unloveable can find love...the hopeless can find hope...a place where Jesus is found at the intersection of church and the real world. A place where I can call home...a place my family can invite countless others to in a non-threatening environment...a place to serve....serve others through Him. A place that's easy to remember...a place you would want to be...a place that reflects me...Dad's Place...but we all know it's His Place.
To say the very least, I've learned a lot in the past two years. I've learned that the love my family has for each other is indescribable and incalculable...that God truly provides for you on a day-by-day basis if you let Him...that if you will just listen and watch, God will speak in a very direct way and He will open and close doors for you that only He can. I've learned who my friends really are, because there are many who just don't understand the fact that I still serve in full-time ministry, just in a much different method. I still get offers from churches to come back on staff, yet each time God very lovingly reminds me about why I do what I do. I've learned that the measure of a man is not determined by the amount of money he makes, the home he lives in, the car he drives, the church he serves in, or the people he tries to impress...he's measured by the God he serves, how he serves Him, how he leads his family and what effect he has on the Kingdom.
What does the future hold...I honestly don't have a clue. But for now, I'm enjoying the ride of a lifetime...the cruise control is set...my seat belt is buckled...my sun glasses are on...and the coffee is brewing...
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
There is a nine-year-old kid sitting at his desk and all of a sudden there is a puddle between his feet and the front of his pants are wet. He thinks his heart is going to stop because he cannot possibly imagine how this has happened. It's never happened before, and he knows that when the boys find out he will never hear the end of it. When the girls find out they'll never speak to him again as long as he lives. The boy believes his heart is going to stop, he puts his head down and prays this prayer, "Dear God, this is an emergency! I need help now! Five minutes from now I'm dead meat."
He looks up from his prayer and here comes the teacher with a look in her eyes that says he has been discovered. As the teacher is walking toward him, a classmate named Susie is carrying a goldfish bowl that is filled with water. Susie trips in front of the teacher and inexplicably dumps the bowl of water in the boy's lap. The boy pretends to be angry, but all the while is saying to himself, "Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord!" Now all of a sudden, instead of being the object of ridicule, the boy is the object of sympathy.
The teacher rushes him downstairs and gives him gym shorts to put on while his pants dry out. All the other children are on their hands and knees cleaning up around his desk. The sympathy is wonderful. But as life would have it, the ridicule that should have been his has been transferred to someone else - Susie.
She tries to help, but they tell her to get out. "You've done enough, you klutz!" Finally, at the end of the day, as they are waiting for the bus, the boy walks over to Susie and whispers, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Susie whispers back, "I wet my pants once too."
May God help us see the opportunities that are always around us to do good. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
In the movie, 'Back To The Future', Marty experienced a new way of travel...a new way of thinking...a new way of life. From the safe streets of Hill Valley, he made his way by means of a skate board...always wanting more...trying to borrow the family car...reaching out, but not knowing how. Little did he know that just a few blocks away, Doc Brown was busy working...researching...testing something so new, so revolutionary that to anyone else, appeared strange...foreign...modern. Soon, by accident...call it necessity, Marty would be trading in his skate board for a nuclear DeLorean.
Were there bumps and bruises along the way? Sure. Were risks involved? Absolutely! Was it worth it? Oh yeah!
A church sign I noticed this past week had this message: "If God is your co-pilot, change seats". Two years ago, I had to do that exact thing. For many years, I had enjoyed life in full time vocational ministry. I had always been sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and had followed Him to many places to fill many positions. But in all honesty, something seemed out of place. It sometimes made me question whether or not I was supposed to be at that specific church...whether or not I was in the right position...and sometimes even made me doubt my call into the ministry. But each time, something would happen that would confirm to us that we were doing the right thing at the right place at the right time. But there was still that little...you know....
There I was, sitting behind the wheel...ready to make a move...follow Him down any path...and yet, the engine was blown. Not even a spit or sputter as I did every thing I knew to get that 'old' machine to run. I was out of ideas...nothing made sense. My life was in utter darkness. The only light I could see was the dimming glow of my life's dashboard informing me that something was critically wrong.
"OK...I give up...I can't do this anymore...I have nothing left...I'll work at anything, do whatever, just please take care of my family!" was my constant prayer. "Whatever, please just show me!" And He did. Did He ever!
In the distance, a tiny pair of headlights appeared. The closer they approached, the brighter they became...it was almost as if the headlights were reflecting the sun's rays. As the vehicle grew closer and closer, it became more difficult to see. Through the tears and the headlights I could make out the image of something I couldn't believe. The car had now stopped beside me, and I was face-to-face with the driver. The car He was driving was indescribable. Concept cars of the future were nothing more than mere Hot Wheel cars compared to this magnificent machine. The engine was so powerful it was making the ground quiver underneath me.
"Is that for me?" I asked.
"Sure is," He replied. "Are you ready?"
"I am so ready" I cried, "You have no idea!"
As I got out of my broken means of transportation, I headed for the driver's door. A sense of relaxation...peace, had overcome me. It was at that exact moment that I heard Him say something that would change my life...my entire perspective...forever. As I reached for the door handle, He said something to me that sent chills down my spine. "Stop", He said. "It's time to change drivers." "From now on, I've got the wheel."
As I crawled into the passenger's seat, scared out of my mind, He said "Son it's OK...don't worry...I'm right here with you." At that moment, the words of Isaiah 42:16 were forever branded in my heart and in my mind...
"I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them."
As He reached for the gear shift, He slowly turned toward me. "You might want to buckle up" He said. "I sometimes have a heavy foot." As I was locking my seatbelt into place, I noticed the sun was beginning to wake...darkness was quickly fading. We slowly began to move forward, picking up speed with each passing moment until we were cruising at some Mach speed. With my head pinned against the headrest, He was still reassuring me that all is OK, if I will just listen...and follow...and let Him drive.
It didn't take long, however, for us to run into several miles of reality construction. I was really confused..."Why are we going through this, if HE is driving? I thought I had left all of this behind!" "Just because I'm driving doesn't mean there won't be rough roads ahead" He said. "It just means that I know how to make them smoother."
Reminded me again of Marty McFly...even though things are going smooth, there's always a Biff Tannen somewhere around...
...to be continued
Monday, October 16, 2006
"We compromise the life of the church if we keep bad soil in our membership. We make church a show that requires the audience to make little or no effort. If someone is willing to come to our service once a week for a little more than an hour and sit passively watching others do the work, then they are considered members in good standing, no matter what the rest of their week is like. One can be totally uncommitted to the Kingdom, distracted by the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things, and still be a member of our church, complete with a smiling photo in our church directory."
This statement should jolt all of us...be honest...share your thoughts in the comments.
Friday, October 13, 2006
I've always felt as though I had a different call on my life. Never quite understood it, but I knew something was different. I remember the first time I knew that God had something special in mind for me...however, I am just like many men that are called into the ministry, I denied it, and attempted to do everything possible to escape it. In reality, one can escape many things throughout their lifetime, but the call of God is an inescapable labyrinth that haunts a man to the deepest chasms of his soul. And why He chose me, I haven't the slightest clue. But I plan on asking Him one day...
Most know what God is preparing them for when they enter into the ministry. Some are called to be pastors...others, youth pastors...some, into worship ministry...and the list goes on. But here again, mine was different. All I knew, was, that I was to totally surrender my life to go and do as He opened the doors, and to walk away from the ones He closed. Talk about an interesting journey! I've been blessed to serve in many staff positions over the years...Sr. Pastor, Youth Pastor, University Pastor, Worship Pastor, and a few more. But just a few short years ago, my calling was distinctly changing direction, and I certainly didn't know why, nor did I understand it.
It was during this time that my family and I were feeling a deep sense of urgency to reach out to the 18 to 35 year old age group. I really can't describe it...it was just a burning passion to minister to this group. We conducted a series of surveys...consulted with many church leaders...and spent many hours in prayer. Our findings were staggering. We determined that only a minor percentage (less than 10%) of this age group in our county could be classified as 'churched'. In addition, our community is home to a small four year college that has an average enrollment of 2800 students. And the student population wasn't even figured into the calculations. The revelation of this data analysis made us quickly realize a new direction in our ministry was happening...right before our very eyes.
In the summer of 2004, after much prayer, consulting with other personal friends that are or have been in full time ministry, searching God's Word, and much more prayer, it was obvious I could no longer remain on staff in my current position in one of the local churches. I didn't understand what God was doing. Here I was, having to resign my position, yet God would not allow me to leave my little community, nor would He allow me to send out resumes to other churches. What was HE thinking?! We had even sought His Will concerning a possible new church plant for this age group, but God closed that door also. However, He did have a plan...
I'll be honest with you, I'm normally a 'see the glass half full' kind of guy...very optimistic...highly aggressive...Type A personality, but this was crazy. I mean, absolutely nuts! My world was crashing down around me and I couldn't do anything about it. My entire concept of ministry was changing like a kaleidoscope in overdrive. My view...my impression of life in ministry and my life in general was that I would serve on staff of a local church, watch the church grow spiritually and numerically, grow old in the process (or should I say 'age gracefully'), watch my daughter become successful in her career, retire, cash in my annuity, and buy a motorcycle.
Sounded good...in theory...only.
My mind was racing so fast it could have competed in the NASCAR circuit. I kept searching...grasping...hoping to understand what was taking place, only to realize that my thoughts and ideas were vanishing as quickly as they appeared. But soon, the plan became very clear. That car that I had been racing in had blown it's engine, and it had been replaced with a much faster...more advanced way of competing...leaving my views of life and ministry as I knew it, in the rear view mirror...
...to be continued
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I pray these quotes are challenging you...encouraging you...and motivating you. We're having a lot of 'lookers'...'readers'...'lurkers'. And I want to encourage you to share your thoughts concerning these quotes in the comment section. I look forward to read what God is doing in your lives through these quotes. Thanks for stopping by.
Monday, October 09, 2006
"Unfortunately, in most churches in the Western world the presence of the pastor is more noticeable than the presence of Jesus. Actually, it is the pastor's absence that is more noticeable. This phenomenon is so common that on any Sunday when the pastor is expected to be away, the attendance drops. People say they missed him when he returns. I fear that we feel the absence of the pastor more than the absence of the Spirit of Jesus. Perhaps it is time we tell Jesus that we miss Him at church too."
Friday, October 06, 2006
I know there are a lot of readers that are stopping by, so Read...React...Comment.
"We would do much better as leaders in the Church to learn at the feet of the farmer rather than study with the CEO of a corporation. It is time we see that the Church starts in the fields, not in the barns (Prov. 24:27). We spend so much time building nice barns with padded pews, air-conditioned halls, and state-of-the-art sound systems, yet we have neglected the fields."
Thursday, October 05, 2006
"The Church is a vibrant, authentic expression of Jesus' love and truth in this dark world, and with Jesus at the helm she is unstoppable! We should not be running from drug dealers and darkness. If indeed we really are the light of the world, we should be running toward the darkness witht ehunderstanding that we cannot be overcome by darkness. We should take the light and jam it right down the throat of darkness...
...Jesus said, "You are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). He didn't command us to shine. He didn't suggest that we be brighter. He said in effect, "You already do shine, you are a light-that is who you are!" He then added that a light is useless if it is placed under a pot or basket. A light should be placed on a lampstand so that it gives light to all the darkness surrounding it (Matt. 5:15)."
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Thanks to Dave Johnston at UAM's BCM for letting me borrow the book!
...from Neil Cole's "Organic Church"
"Church attendance, however, is not the barometer of how Christianity is doing. Ultimately, transformation is the product of the Gospel. It is not enough to fill our churches; we must transform our world. Society and culture should change if the church has been truly effective. Is the church reaching out and seeing lives changed by the Good News of the Kingdom of God? Surely the number of Christians will increase once this happens, but filling seats one day a week is not what the Kingdom is all about. We do Jesus an injustice by reducing His life and ministry to such a sad story as church attendance and membership rolls.
The measure of the Church's influence is found in society--on the streets, not in the pews."
Monday, October 02, 2006
"Listen", she said..........."what do you suppose that is?"
He drew his eyebrows together in a puzzled line and looked up as if lost in the mystery of the strange tap - tap - tapping deep in his chest. Then his face broke out in a wondrous grin and he asked, "Is that Jesus Knocking?"
Thanks Denise for sharing this with me...