Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

How I can be grateful that “Merry Christmas” is being removed from the Culture.

   Before you get all mad and upset with me let me explain the whole story of my why. When I first came to Jesus as Savior in the early 80’s Jesus was the reason for the season. The season was a celebration of primarily celebrating the miraculous birth of Christ the Savior and celebrating a New Year a week later. During this season, other Holidays or Holy Days can often overlap from other faiths and belief systems like Hanukkah among Jews and Solstice among pagans. So now that we are invaded as Americans by other faiths the culture is making more room in the INN. 

As a kid I grew up where even the culture liked to celebrate Christmas with many of its traditions, of which gift exchanging is still associated today. However, over the last 20 plus years Christians have not stood out and transformed the American culture as they once did. Now we pay that price in a mild form of persecution.
Gradually we have seen the tolerance of other faiths and beliefs turn a distinct Holy Day (Christmas) into a do not offend others holiday season. Many Christians and Christian Organizations have boycotted businesses and done many other things to reverse this tide of secularism. Now we are beginning to experience the drastic secularization of a biblical event which is offensive to many. I say “good” grief! Jesus said if we followed Him and picked up our cross we would be persecuted for His name sake. Could it be that as the culture takes away what the Believers of Christ took for granted that it will separate the cultural Christian from the born again Christian who truly walks by faith? 

  Are we who follow Christ (who grieve over a culture fast becoming secularized) actually experiencing Christian persecution? If so, we should rejoice because biblical history reveals that whenever the Church is persecuted that it grows and God adds to its numbers daily such as are being saved.  Matt 5:10-12
Could the removal and secularization of “Christmas” actual be a blessing in disguise?  A week ago my family and I had a treat and went to a Bob Evans Restaurant after church on a Sunday. When leaving, the cashier asked me how was everything. I replied it was good, but took a long time to get our food. She proceeded to apologize and blamed the delay on the “church crowd”.  I said that is fine and just let her think I was not from the church crowd even though I was. Then as I was ready to leave she said, ‘Merry Christmas”. Then she quickly caught herself and said, “Oh I’m sorry I did not mean to offend you, I meant Happy Holidays”. My reply was, that’s ok I am not offended cause I do enjoy a Merry Christmas and celebrate it. We both smiled and I left. 

 Maybe Bob Evans has a policy among other similar businesses to make Christmas generic so as to not offend customers who are not Christians. The reality is, this removal of Christmas from the culture should actually drive the season of celebration deeper into the heart of those who follow Him and cause those of us who claim Christ to become better and more intentional about our faith in the marketplace. When a business is owned and operated by a Christian I think that as well will become more obvious. 

 Yesterday my wife Becky picked up our oldest daughter coming home from college.  After they left the  airport in Orlando they went to a mall. While they were there they could not read or hear " Merry Christmas"  ANYWHERE in the mall. The best they hunted down was a tree with a Santa. There is more Gospel power about to be revealed as the culture tries to bury a Risen Savior. Be encouraged God is still on the throne.  "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 )

    So turn those Happy Holiday and Season Greetings to your own platform to Merry Christmas your witness among those who do not know or worship Christ the Lord.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

~A Land of the Lost~ ~ A Gospel of Hope~

 The other day I received an email about a family that still needs help that moved away from our city. Last night I received another phone call from someone I did not know from out of state in need of help for relatives who live in my town. Between these two completely different needs & stories it made me think again how lost our culture is and has become from when I first came to Christ in the early 80's. 

            As I look around our culture I see trends that cause me to rethink how followers of Christ look and act in respect to our culture. When I first became a Christian in the early 80’s I was discipled and taught some basic principles I have lived by for the past 20 plus years.
1.     Abstain or avoid from all appearance of evil  I Thessalonians 5:22
2.     Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.    Ephesians 4:29
3.     Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1 Corinthians 6:19

1.    Abstain or avoid from all appearance of evil: These simple principals and rules of living holy are harder to perceive, define and apply when the culture is more backward away from godliness then forward toward a gospel conformity. For instance, when I first got saved I lived with a guy who was a few years older than me and we shared an apartment and a partying lifestyle. Since I got saved I have only lived with male roommates  and my family and now my wife. When I first got saved if a man lived with a woman who was not their spouse it was considered the appearance of a sinful relationship (unless the age difference by decades was obvious). If two men lived with each other rarely was it considered a homosexual relationship?  Now it is a different day! With decades of entertainment breaking down our moral compasses even in our public schools there are subculture gay groups. In some areas in society sodomy dips into Junior high school as well. With multiple sitcoms and movies supporting and making this sinful behavior common place those social rules from decades ago have changed. Depending on where you live you might have to adjust your perspective. Matter of fact with the way the government welfare system it is structured, marriage can often undo financial stability for many people today including our senior citizens.  In a post Christian culture the appearance of evil is a more difficult thing to define then it was even a decade ago. Many people live with whomever they know or can, just to survive verses out of sexual encounters. The family structure has crumbled and it is not the majority percentage of the culture any longer either. Half of all American children will witness the breakup of a parent’s marriage. Of these, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage.” (Furstenberg, Peterson, Nord, and Zill, “Life Course”)  Among the millions of children who have seen their parents divorce, one of every 10 will also live through three or more parental marriage breakups. (The Abolition of Marriage, Gallagher)  Forty percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers. (Wade, Horn and Busy, “Fathers, Marriage and Welfare Reform” Hudson Institute Executive Briefing, 1997)  Of all children born to married parents this year, fifty percent will experience the divorce of their parents before they reach their 18th birthday. (Fagan, Fitzgerald, Rector, “The Effects of Divorce On America)
Can America be restored? Maybe, but as long as the vast majority of entertainment keeps producing and promoting immorality on the scale it has done for the last several decades it’s not likely in my opinion.But don't despair for there is hope.

2. When I first came to faith in Christ I had a foul mouth. Jesus Christ was a name I used to curse by. Without anyone telling me I knew I had to change my verbal behavior. Within weeks I dropped the 4 letter words and became highly conscious of the words I said in common speech as well as in anger or pain. Back then, those same words were never heard anywhere but on the streets and among my rough peers. Today is a different day. Some of the 3 and 4 letter foul and course expletive words are common place among people in authority as well as throughout the entertainment world. This rude vocaeven includes many children programming and cartoon shows. Normal communication speech has become just plan rude. 1 Timothy 3:1-5  But realize this,  in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

When I first became a Christian, if the word “ass” or “damn” were used on a show or program I was taught to change the channel or not watch it. ( that was before remote controls too) It is still a good rule of thumb to live by, but rarely does this happen anymore by just observing the favorite TV shows listed on many believers Facebook pages. The reason is often justified because it is only used a couple of times or we just do not define language usage as conservative as we once did as a culture.  Can our tongues learn again to speak with only a God honoring vocabulary in a culture where even those in authority use vulgarity as the common man lingo? Can our common acceptable language be restored to a place of dignity, honor and polite verbiage? I truly doubt it and especially so with text messaging becoming a new language of the day where even the letters “LMAO” are common place among an entire generation. People do not even need to say a foul words out loud to be heard, but just think it and abbreviate it and those on the other end get it, without a single vulgar word technically spelled out in full or spoken. But don't despair for there is hope.

3. When I first came to Christ I had 3 main bad habits that polluted by body. I smoked, I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana. As soon as I received Christ as Savior I knew that marijuana was wrong and had to go and I wanted it to go as well. I was ready to think straight and have a fresh start in life. Alcohol being legal was a different story. I thought as long as I do not get drunk I am within the biblical boundaries. Within a short time I realized that just because it was legal and acceptable in the culture did not mean it was with God and me. So that left my life within 3 months. Smoking was the last of my big three bad habits.  Since so many of the new friends I had in Christ did not smoke I became more aware of how stupid of an addiction and habit it was and by God’s grace gave it up so I could be a stronger testimony for God and live a healthier and longer biblical life.  Well those three things are still in our culture, but now they are replaced or minimized by even more life wrecking drugs. However, these new drugs are prescribed to people by those in authority that had been trusted for decades. The medical profession and professional is now writing solutions to problems that can often be made up to get the drug. Many get drugs only to sell them like a business. Is there hope to change this addictive culture? I seriously doubt it now as there is an entire multi-billion dollar industry locked into the medical field on these life destroying drugs. ADHD is another supposed problem that kids gets prescriptions for these days. A few decades ago a child would rarely be prescribed a drug. Now a generation of children have become adults who are used to taking drugs for problems since childhood.

Is the Land of the Lost without hope? NO…. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. Hebrews 13:8.  Jesus can and still does forgive sin, break the bondage's and sets the drug addict free. The difference between a few decades ago and now is the higher cost to becoming a follower then it was before. To truly follow Christ ones steps will stand out in the crowd more obvious than even a few decades ago.

Can two senior citizens marry and lose one income and still trust God? Absolutely! Will they count the cost and still do it?  I wonder.

Can someone go to the doctor and ask a zillion questions and decide against taking a prescription that tends to addict and request something different or find alternative answers to pain. Absolutely! Will They? I wonder.

Can someone speak and be entertained without compromising a godly vocabulary that is not as common place as it once was? Absolutely! Will they? I Wonder

Can someone find a place to live without living in sin and honor the God of the universe and avoid appearances of evil? Absolutely! Will they? Time will tell.

These are hard days in America. We are truly a lost culture and desperately need a Savior. We need Him as much culturally  as we do individually. American needs a Savior !  My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ Righteousness! Share him with your culture and see what the Lord will do.We might not be able to change the culture all at once, but we can one lost soul at a time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A BaaB of a Faith Journey


Missions is always about a leap of faith, at least it has been for me. My very first mission trip was in 1989 going to Kenya Africa. Since then and including that first trip I have never had the total resources available to just pay and go. I've always had to step out with desire and faith first and begin to trust, wait and lean on God's timing and provisions.

         I've now gone on 6 mission trips since that first one. The most recent one I am in the process of headed toward is by far the most adventuresome and challenging of all. It is also the most exciting one and most expensive in the hardest of economic times. Biker and a Backpack ( BaaB ) grabbed my hearts attention from day one back in February 2011.

   Since that date almost every dollar saved seemed to slip from my hands to a more immediate and pressing need in my family and ministry until the first deadline arrived in August. On that day I was able to put down 250.00 toward a roughly  $3,000 West African Ghana trip. I was one of first two people who signed up on time. The trip was delayed for lack of enough people until finally it was approved with 12 days before the deadline for balance due.

   It was within a few days of that deadline that God's provisions started to open. An unexpected 500.00 found me and I was shocked. As well, there were the kids In our church doing a “penny drive”. Yes a "penny drive "!  I did not have much hope of pennies providing the final breakthrough, but it was very emotional to think about canceling out on the kids “penny drive fund raiser” because the pastor could not “afford it” or “faith it” all the way through.  

       I was in a true dilemma and what was I going to do? Then a friend I was going to fly to Africa with backed out for reasons unrelated to my situation. This started making me wonder if my timing was wrong on the trip. I finally emailed a missionary friend about my situation (the lack of funds and my desire).  I ended my email with this exact P.S. sentence
(I told the Lord I would be willing to sell my motorcycle to go, but the best price in its condition presently would be about 1500.00 and it breaks my heart to sell my only transportation joy and toy and stress reliever, but if God leads I will do it for souls in Africa without questioning Him.)

          The next day a gentleman from my church and I were eating lunch.
      During our conversation he asked me how much I would sell my motorcycle for. Needless to say I was stunned at the timing of his question, knowing he did not know what I had just written a missionary a few days before. I wondered if this was God leading the way to provide or was it just God confirming He heard me and revealing he was indeed my provider.

     It seemed weird that a pastor who likes to ride motorcycles would sell his bike to go on the first biker Jesus film trip and have to sell his to do it, but God knows what he is doing as I remained excited. After lunch I sent him away for the weekend with the keys to my bike and he was to let me know later. I was feeling pretty
good that we both would end up pretty happy on this God ordained deal as odd as it seemed.

     That Sunday night he showed up at church with the bike and said , " sorry pastor my bike days are over and I can't do it with your bike or any bike." I said ok and went on my way wondering and still trusting God. I was also beginning to question and doubt a little as well. The next day my friend officially backed out of going on the trip that we had planned for several months to do together.  

      Monday was a hard day and everywhere I turned it seemed like canceling my trip made the most reasonable decision to make. Perhaps I could go another time to do a Jesus Film BaaB mission trip. When I looked up the prices again on flights to West Africa I was overwhelmed as I could not see a way to raise or get the needed $ 1500.00 for a ticket. On top of this my wife reminded me I needed to buy a ticket for my college daughter soon to get her home and back for Thanksgiving.

The next day I shared my dilemma with my volunteer church secretary who is also our mission president in our church. Even her comments were inclined that I might wait and maybe it just was not God's perfect timing yet. Then I glanced down and saw the two jars of pennies on the floor of my office that the kids had been saving. Yeah right I thought!

That same day my wife was not feeling well so I took my youngest daughter to the dentist. Along the way I learned that my associate pastor had given his motorcycle away that day, when I knew the night before it was for sale.  He ended up blessing a young man he hardly knew who had a need. That was so amazing to me and revealing the heart of a great man meeting a Spirit led need. I was so excited for both of them as I drove down the road. That alone was another entire story, but it was another story involving a motorcycle and provision happening around me.  Huum!

I decided to email the Executive Director of JFHP named Brian Helstrom and ask him to call me about Ghana. Not knowing when he would call me or what I was really going to ask him or even what to expect him to say,  but just wanting to get his opinion about flying alone to Africa and my dilemma.

     It was about 1:30 and we were eating at McDonald's after the dental appointment when one of my best friends who is also a pastor called me. We just started talking when I got another call and told him I was expecting a call from
 Kansas City and would he mind if I took the call and got back to him.  I took the call from Brian and he nailed me on my issues and boiled it down to, " Peter, either God wants you on this trip or He doesn't and we need people to get this equipment to Ghana or some people will die without a Savior before they see the film".
After that call I prayed and said to myself,” well I'm going to put action to my  willingness in faith and sell bike again”. I sent Brian a text that read [I will sell "my Bike" for "His souls" and put faith to this idea and list the bike on Craigslist when I get home. Thanks Brian]

     On the way home I remembered that I needed to call my pastor friend back. We both kept getting our calls dropped and finally he got me back and said, “so who called you from Kansas City anyway?" I proceeded to tell him who I called and about my situation and how I did not know what or how I was going to get the money for a plane ticket to Africa. Had he not asked me about the call I had no plan to discuss it with him.

  My friend said, “Peter that's a done deal. We got extra missions money that we can help by purchasing this ticket as this is so missions. Just give us a report after the trip so we know what happened with our investment in missions. Needless to say I was overwhelmed, shocked and extremely blessed.

     It was timing of so many interesting factors and calls that only God could have worked out so many details like this. On the way home I texted my NMI president the news and she was excited too. That same evening we had a local Missions council meeting and the last part of the agenda they voted to cover my Visa expenses. It was the icing on the Mission cake for sure.

What started out as an over $3000.00 trip has turned into an amazing story of grace for me, my family and our church. Granted, I have not even gone yet and more adventure is bound to happen, but truly God leads, delays and provides according to His plan. I wonder how many of His children never experience his amazing ways as I have time and time again because so many do not struggle through in faith up to the last hour. It was only when the Israelite priests actually stepped into the flood stage river waters of the Jordon headed to the promise land before the water parted. It was only when Abraham picked up the knife in willingness to slay his only son as a sacrifice, before God provided another means. It was only as those with leprosy went in obedience before they were healed on the way and it was only when Peter got out the boat before he would walk on water.

    Like Peter I started to tread water on this trip and when the waves of doubt hit me a few times I started to sink, but praise be to God I looked back up to Jesus and waited as He provided the rest of the means through his people and methods for one amazing journey even before leaving for Africa.

Be encouraged, walk in faith and find His heart and follow Him and see what the Master can do in your journey.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What Does A Pastor Do?

The pastor teaches, though he must solicit his own classes. He heals, though without pills or knife. He is sometimes a lawyer, often a social worker, something of an editor, a bit of a philosopher and entertainer; A salesman, a decorative piece for public functions, and he is suppose to be a scholar. He visits the sick, marries people, buries the dead, labors to console those who sorrow and to admonish those who sin, and tries to stay sweet when chided for not doing his duty. He plans programs, appoints committees when he can get them; spends considerable time in keeping people out of each other's hair; between times he prepares a sermon and preaches it on Sunday to those who don't happen to have any other engagement. Then on Monday he smiles when some jovial chap roars, "what a job- one a week!"

Author unknown 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

911 & It's Subtle Effects in a Decade

How 9/11 changed me and challenges me to be a better witness for Christ.
I remember that day clearly as most do. I was in my church office and my wife called me after the first plane crashed into a tower. I came home for a few minutes to watch it on the TV. I really did not grasp the impact of it right then cause I did not know as much as I know now. I later left to go downtown that morning and being that we only lived 4 hours south of DC at the time the news was spreading fear and worry everywhere I went that morning.
I do recall how nice of a day it was and the strange calm i felt as I noticed no planes flying over ahead the remainder of that day.

Since then the security at out airports has changed drastically. I have also witnessed numerous times how TSA agents have lost their common sense and discernment with the American people in the name of security.
The biggest change I've noticed however is in me. Since that day I often find myself frozen when I see someone who appears to be Muslim and I get sort of spooked internally. This was never the case before 9/11.
In 1998 I witnessed to a Muslim in Africa for an hour and now I realize that I must look past 9-11 and share Christ again with the same pre 9/11 passion as a growing population of Muslims continue to grow around us. I know without Jesus all men are hopelessly and eternally lost.
I must admit the fear of men and the propaganda about Muslims effected me without truly realizing it until this past year.

In 2012 I have a missions trip planned to West Africa among Muslim people. I truly am looking forward to sharing Christ without fear and with His favor. I also know if I can feel that about them living there I can and need to be this way here at home.
What if the tragedy of 9/11 had been done by radical Catholics or Evangelicals or Jews or Hindu's ? Or radical democrats, republicans or socialist. I've learned over these past 10 years that I must love His way regardless of who does something wicked. I have to look to God to be filled with his power to be a witness to all men everywhere regardless of religion or creed.
Our hearts still go out to those who lost loved ones on that day, but may we learn to love more in the name of Jesus verses fear more.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Do You Rest Weekly?

  I recently returned from a week of teen mission camp. There were 15 of us in 3 vans driving 12 hours one way to make a difference in the city of Tuscaloosa, AL after the Tornado’s from April. The night we arrived we were excited and got settled and started off the time in the evening worship. What followed was very little sleep on a gym floor with over 100 other people. Each day was labor intense in the hot sun and each evening mixed with fun. Truly the event was life changing for many who attended for multiple reasons. We returned late Saturday night before dark. Teens and adults were tired and the adults probably more so from the extra drain of driving for 12 hours. Throughout the week I never slept more than 6 hours on any given night. Then when we got home, I had Sunday responsibilities to be prepared for and minister out of again. 

  I am observing today on the 9th day that I went 8 days in a row of giving, going, working, driving and very little sleep. I am not complaining, but rather reflecting and observing my own schedule in this particular time frame. Please do not take this wrong, for the whole week was a "blast", but at the same time it was a full tilt schedule for 8 solid days in a row. As a pastor, Sunday is a day of worship and rest for the body of Christ which is a good thing. Attending worship services to learn, fellowship, sing, give and is to be a spiritually inspiring time every week. Yet for the shepherds and those who minister to the body of Christ it is technically a day of work to empower others to experience a great day of rest.  As a pastor, it is hard for me to take a total biblical day off and rest, renew and reflect without some demand requesting me and my time. It is hard for me to take a full day of rest without giving, but I know I have too in order to be biblically balanced.

         As I reflect back on my day off (Monday) I can see that I broke my schedule for rest. I broke a command for a rhythm of rest unintentionally. Thank you Jesus for the Grace to forgive and reveal your wisdom!   I drove and did ministry for at least 12 hours on what was my typical day off to rest last week. Please know I am not a legalist, as I do know and understand the grace of God.  I don’t "feel" like I sinned because all that I did for 8 days was ministry and good things, but technically I did not take a shut down day off with God like He commands all believers to do as he did after 6 days of creation Himself. 
“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he restedc from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:1-3
 I also know that the law does not redeem me, but it’s the sacrifice of Christ which is my redemption. My intent was good and I am set free from the law, but the law still is there for my good and the good of others as well. I actually feel God’s grace in a refreshing way just writing the truth of this experience.

You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:4-6

So why am I writing about rest when I did not do so well this past week at it? Because I am observing in me how easy it is with totally good intentions to miss the mark of the cycles and rhythms of God’s perfect protective laws for our own good. If I took apart each of the last 8 days I probably could figure out a way to justify 8 days of work without rest, but the bottom line is, regardless of the reasons I feel very tired today and as I reflect back I can see I'm off sync. I can see 8 days of non-stop from my usual cycle and I am paying the price in my body if not in other areas.

    This recent lack of rest in the intent of ministry helped me see afresh the wonder of His love for me and how he designed me to rest in cycles and rhythms for a reason. The intent of the Sabbath was rest with renewing purpose and not rule adherence. It's just a rule of every 7th day that helps us stay in sync with Him and our design and others.
 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?   Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”   When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.  Luke 13:14-17
     Each day requires its own rest and last week going to bed after midnight with teens in a gym and waking up by 6 a.m. was not a great cycle each day. The lack of daily rest compounded on top of the next. I tend to be a night owl way to often anyway and I can see better now how even that does not help my life very much. Not only has God instructed us to physically and spiritually rest and renew one day a week, but there is also the need for daily healthy cycles as well.

Do realize that observing a Sabbath rest is written in the list of commandments along with do not kill, do not steal and do not bear false witness? This reveals to me that to totally ignore the need to rest weekly is as much a violation to ourselves as much as it is to God and others who have to live with us. How much different would we all be if we keep this command weekly? 

If more professing believers observed a Sabbath rest the first day of the week before 6 full days of activity/work I wonder if we might also observe a lot less sin and other violations among each other. Does a lack of rest leave us less sensitive to the Holy Spirit in daily obedience? Does the lack of rest cause us to stumble more in sin against one another? Does the lack of rest cause us to run on empty and shorten our fuse with one another causing more quarreling and fighting? Does Rest Really matter?  I believe rest matters greatly. On one hand, not resting creates problems for us and on the other hand resting too much is defined as laziness and causes another set of problems as well. Bottom line is we need to work out of rest and rest weekly. If we do not do this, then the lack of rest creates disruptions in our lives and those around us.

In some regards rest is as meaningful to our bodies and minds and moods as food is the fuel for our bodies to live on. We need rest and we need it daily, weekly and for the remainder of our earthly lives. A weekly rest does not need to be a certain day of the week as much as it needs to be 1 day each weekly cycle which ever day that is for us, but when we can all be on the same day as a community / culture is makes it so much easier.

 Sunday in America had been a shut down rest observing day for the last couple centuries, but now as we live in a post Christian era the secularist time clock has taken over. 24/7 living and working is now the norm. The Sabbath is not reinforced culturally and therefore requires more personal discipline to accomplish then it ever has.

  Even the convenience store 711 has out grown its original objective of being open early at 7 a.m. and closing late at 11 p.m.  I see the scriptural reason, rhythm and benefits of observing and enjoying His law more then ever. He sure does love me and He loves you as well.
  As I Rest with Him each week I am discovering that it is also much more productive to Work out of Rest then it is to Rest from Work. When we mess the cycles up we mess ourselves up and when we mess ourselves up, we usual end up messing up others along the way too. What a great God we serve who loves us enough to set the example with us in Resting. May we rest daily and weekly and be extremely fruitful for His honor and glory.

Do You Rest Weekly?  do you have a rest area weekly with God and His People while on the Journey of life?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jesus Virgins And The Man Who Stunk To High Heaven

The stuff that pastors deal with! The good, the bad and sometimes the mysteriously bizarre.

My last pastorate was on a rural road in a rural town. In the 9 years I served there I dealt with very few strangers and hard pressed situations, at least compared to where I serve now.

In the 28 months of serving in my present ministry very few months have passed without at least a phone call for some need.

There are professional poor thieves out there that know how to play the emotional manipulation game. The best trick in the book is when they show up either before or after a service and track down the minister.

In a little over two years I've received requests by phone or in person and the  needs have varied from electric bills, rent, food, gas, clothes, furniture, temporary lodging, bus tickets  to  “can I work right now for cash”.

At first I use to listen and give my time away or redirect them to some other agency better equipped. Recently I had to smarten up when I realized this is going to happen a lot here being so close to downtown and on the main drag. About a year ago I developed a two page form to weed out the true from the false requested needs.  They have to fill it out before I will even listen to the story. I tell them ahead of time that we do not have a large benevolence fund or food or clothing pantries. Most of the forms since then either get filled out so vague or not readable that I have to ask them all over and they usually walk away empty.
Well this past month I got taken again and as well had skipped the form. I think I need to stick to form and even spend $10 bucks for a back ground check to get the real deal info and story. I wonder if a social security number and $10 too much to ask someone who is looking for help? 

I use to leave the door unlocked during the day and then I had to lock it so they would not just walk in on me like they owned the place. One time a man walked into my office with his bible open and told me he was a prophet coming through town. He tried to talk to me without permission or consideration that I might be busy. He never introduced himself other than he was a prophet of Jesus Christ. After about a 3 minute forced bible study in my face, I said “what do you want”? He said the Lord wants you to give me gas money. At that point I was a bit perturbed with this disturbed prophet. Then as nice as I could I asked him to leave my office. When he insisted I stood up and told him that if he was a prophet then he should have known the future enough to know I was not going to give him a dime. I really did not say that, but in hind sight I wished I had. Sometime later I found out he did a lot of damage emotional to a few other churches in our area.

As he headed out the door in front of me I saying “get out” when he proceeded to call down curses on me. That was among the worst. Another interesting story was the man who came on a Sunday morning who had another long story that I had to cut short. He cut to the chase and asked me for a shower and a place to sleep for a night. No money or food, just sleep and shower.

I told him I needed time to process his request and would give him an answer after church. Then he asked if he could join us for worship. Well of course I said yes. But this man truly stunk to high heaven.

The people who came to church that morning were very nice to him and several who sat around him never said anything or treated him different because of his appearance or smell. He was loved and given kind welcomes as anyone else would be. But his odor was truly repulsive. I must admit he was the worst human I ever had to smell before. That particular Sunday my wife was out of town and I had my 4 youngest of 5 kids with me and it was a juggling act. I sensed the Lord wanted me to really bless him. So after church I took him across the street and told him to order whatever he wanted for lunch and told the waitress I would be back soon to pay for him.

I left and went to Goodwill and bought him fresh clothes including under wear to shoes (the works). Then I came back and took him to the best hotel in town. He was one blessed soul. I never heard from him again and our total bill was about 100 bucks on that guy. It was a small price to pay to help restore the dignity of someone.

Several have found my home from time to time and asked for money. The strangest one was a young woman about 22 who looked well dressed with purse and all. She rang the bell at 11:30 pm and wanted to talk to the lady of the house. After a series of my questions and no clear answers I told her request was not going to happen. She walked away down the street. Of the many who ask for gas money I usually meet them at the gas station if it feels right and then half the time when I get there they are nowhere to be found.

One day a tall man in his 60's came by and demanded we give him a refrigerator. That man was not such a happy camper when he left.

I've helped people who have the most bizarre stories. Some have worked off projects for cash or gas, others I've bought meals and given grocery cards too.

Many leaders in certain pastoral assignments can identify with these unexpected interruptions, challenges and blessings. Some are demonic and others are just pitiful. Few hold promise and many are professional abusers. And so many who we minister to each week in our local churches have no idea about the people off the streets we deal with behinds the scenes.

I’ll close with a rather goofy story that happened recently that inspired me to write this entry. I just finished helping a man get money to prevent him from living on the street (who has since has left town after weeks of helping) when I was approached by another couple ladies in the parking lot. They were dressed in white looking like 'disciples'. The picture to the right is actually the ladies themselves. My first thought was cult, then just weird and finally bizarre. They were Joan & Carrie in their 30's and 60's and they traveled the country by faith as they claimed. They did not know where they were going and asked for a place to roll out their bed rolls. After an hour of strange conversation I gave these vegetarian virgins for Jesus two bananas, 20 bucks and permission to sleep in their car in the parking lot. They did indeed refer to themselves as Jesus virgins.

Many in our congregation miss these experiences that find me and many other pastors in our nation. Some of these stories make the pulpit at times, but most never do. Our associate pastor to young families has had his own set of these stories now and we have shared a few of them together as well.

I hope a little glimpse into the mystery of ministry will inspire you to be discerning, open and more understanding of some of the odd things perhaps your pastor does while serving you as pastor in your community.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are you Sober Minded?

In the last few weeks a lot of attention was drawn to the new book "Love Wins " by Rob Bell. A friend of mine read the book and said his conclusion was that Rob Bell did not have anything biblically solid to say, but rather his book was basically a giant question on Hell with a question much like Eve was given in the garden by the serpent who said " Did God really say you will die? ".

Many people love Rob Bell and his style because they say he makes people think and causes people to doubt things and wonder. Adam and Eve were provoked to question what God first said and looked what happened to them and in turn us. And after they were posed with a question about what God originally said they changed their minds and made a bad decision and we are all still dealing with sin because of it. Adam & Eve intoxicated their minds with another influence beyond God’s.

The bible is very clear from Old and New Testaments that God will hold each soul accountable in the end. God also makes it clear in the Bible that the way to destruction is wide and the way to life is narrow and very few find it. Jesus did not say that everyone will find peace and the narrow path, but few would be on it. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. Matthew 7:13

It is true that God loves everyone and that Jesus paid a price for everyone's sins so that whosoever wanted Him, the narrow path, forgiveness ,release and eternal life would not be denied.

1 Peter 5:8 says to the followers of Jesus , " be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

Let me pose a Rob Bell style question to you in reverse? Does God's Word really say you have to be sober minded and alert about an enemy? Certainly God will not let anything happen to those he loves. I could write a long article or even a book trying to convince believers that God's power, grace and strength will never allow anything  bad to happen to His children, but that would not be true to life or the scriptures. Just ask the marytrs someday.

I won't write anything like that because I know that the full council of the Word of God teaches a balance between divine protection and personal responsibility.

What does it mean to be Sober minded and Alert? In today's world the roaring lion is still out seeking whom he may destroy.

In the Gospel of John 3:18 it says," whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." The only solution to our present state of damnation is to turn to Jesus Christ and trust Him and receive His offer of escape. If we accept Him and follow and stay sober minded we have great hope and so much more. If we reject, get sloppy and careless and get intoxicated in our minds with the philosophies of this world then we are warned we will be devoured by an enemy. Let us have a sober mind & heart that feeds upon the Word of God, meditating on it day and night. Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Are you sober minded?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Special Day called Easter!

Today has been a great day in our church, community and our family. Why?. Because we celebrated the physical resurrection that happened 1,981 years ago today. “Why do you search among the dead for the living, He is Risen”. The recorded historical facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are a truly supernatural encounter that forever changed and continues to change the world. But just like those who denied it then many still ignore Him today.

Christians meet weekly to celebrate the resurrection with worship, fellowship and prayer. However, once a year we put a special emphasis on the actual Sunday when it occurred. In our local community many come out on Saturday night before Easter to decorate rough wooden crosses with flowers. This past year over 50 crosses placed in front of local businesses on the main drag were set up on Friday as blank wooden crosses and by Saturday late night they were displaying flowers all over them for view on the dawn of the forthcoming dawn.

My older daughter is still in Brazil studying abroad through her college. Last week she told us that in that country everything shuts down on Thursday until Monday morning. They truly acknowledge the Passion Week when Jesus was crucified and resurrected from schools, businesses and government agencies.

This past Saturday I went to a local hardware store and noticed the sign ‘closed on Easter’. After discussing it with the clerk I was told It was likely the last year because the new owners wanted to be open seven days a week.

After our worship services and the powerful presence of Jesus our family had a special treat and went out for lunch in a local closed Mall. As we drove we noticed many stores closed down including Target and many major retailers. It was refreshing to see the mail parking lot almost completely empty. As we got into the restaurant my wife told me a comment she overhead between a couple people trying to shop when given an answer by the security guard. The conversation went like this: Shopper 1 ‘Why is the mall closed?’ Guard: Because it is Easter. Shopper 2 to shopper 1: Why is the mall closed? Shopper 1: Because some man named Jesus died along time ago’.

It is wonderful that the cross and the resurrection still have the power to shut down stores. Those stores and business may become fewer and fewer, but it is still wonderful that many of the holidays that commemorate different aspects of the life of the Savior almost 2000 years ago still have the power over hearts, minds and lives in many ways we often don’t realize.

My comment to shopper 1 If I could have heard him would have been. “He did die, but I want you to know he died for you and he is not dead. For He is risen! Thank God for the global holiday called Easter that commemorates the passion of Christ.