Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Disappointment of a Failed Expectation

I have noticed in myself and others a common malady that shows up at holidays and big events.  Let's call this malady The Failed Expectation.

This is how it goes:  you are really looking forward to time off or vacation or a holiday with all its special activities, etc. - but then when it actually comes, you feel unsatisfied, maybe disappointed, perhaps even frustrated or angry.  Why does this happen?  What is going on here?  I have found in myself and a few others that have discussed this that when we build high expectations of something within us there is always the danger of the balloon popping and all our hopeful fantasies deflating into perceived failure.  Perhaps this part of  the meaning of Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, But when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.  

 Why does this happen?  Well, when this happens, we are DENYING a few things:

1.  We are denying the reality of REALITY.

The reality is that things are not going to go exactly how you want them to go.  People are not going to say and act just as you want them to.  As my children grow older, I am realizing more and more that a certain event that I plan is subject to the wills of older children becoming adults.  I cannot just expect that things will run in the totally controlled manner that they did when the kids were little children totally subject to the whims of the parents.

You expect to go to the family reunion and interact with people a certain way, and when that turns sour - you are deflated and perhaps angry because you did not factor in the variables that the reality of life is always changing and never dependable.  You throw that party and want everything to go perfectly - but people fail to show up, your punch turns out wrong, your water heater goes out, and your dog decides to have stomach issues.  The reality of life is that things are not dependable.

This year, I of course had this perfect Christmas scene in mind with our oldest daughter Abbie home from college.  Christmas day has such high expectations in our minds of "the most wonderful time of the year."  Well, this year we had a few surprises that challenged that.  Our Christmas lights won't stay on outside and keep throwing a breaker.  Our "real" tree was full of aphids that flooded our living room and hallway with hundreds of unexpected Christmas guests.  The tree also dropped sap like the sky has dropped rain this Christmas.  Our presents were all covered with sap and aphids.  Lovely.  On top of this, there was a miscommunication about Christmas breakfast that caused Amy and I to have a "serious" talk.  Yeah - the REALITY is different than the EXPECTATION.  Don't get me wrong, it was a nice Christmas, but reality certainly showed up.

2.  We are denying the reality of our FLESH.  I won't say much about this, but just note that any move to "control everything" your way is a mark of fleshly pride.  I struggle with that.  I feel if everything goes MY WAY then everyone will be happy.  This is not true, nor is it good.

When we have these expectations in events where we are interacting with other people, then our flesh is going to butt heads with the flesh of others.  These events tend to be more "tense" than normal days because we are in strange environments and situations that we are not used to.  Our expectations are banging against the expectations of others.  The preferences of introverts and extroverts are colliding. Preferences in a thousand ways are at odds.  There will be interactions that are not the delightful situation that you imagined.

3.  We are denying the reality of God's working.  Our expectations can never factor in what God would like to do in us and through us because we don't know the mind of God.  He is working on these days of holidays, vacations, events.  Many times, that means the Lord is going to throw us a curve ball to grow us or change us and others.  He may be accomplishing something by the mishaps and disappointments that would totally surprise us if we could know them.  So, we need to trust Him when things don't go as we planned.

4.  We are denying the fact that failed expectations are the breeding ground for great memories.  In his video series Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships, Dr. Gary Smalley explains how unexpected calamities in a family or a group can turn out to bond us and bring some of the most joyful memories in years ahead.  He talks about a camping weekend gone wrong and how it brought his family together in an unexpected way.

You know, we will forever talk about the "aphid Christmas with all the sap" in our family.  It will be a humorous memory in days ahead that will bond our family. (no sappy pun intended).  The calamities of a failed expectation certainly can be sorrowful, but some can actually be productive in your life.  If everything went as expected, then life would be a pretty boring place.

So, I guess I would just encourage you in this conversation with a few applications:  1.  Don't build your mind up for some great thing that will likely not happen just the way you want.  2.  Realize that your fantasy involves other people's preferences and wills, and that needs to be ok with you.  3.  Realize God is at work in the curve balls.  Trust Him.  4.  Realize that you are making memories with others - laugh at the Failed Expectation when you can.  I would also add a #5.  Things probably went better than your "failed expectations" feel.  Try to reflect on the positives.

God is good to us even when everything is not going perfect.  We have what we need, we get to be with great family and friends, Jesus is our Savior and King.  That's enough, life doesn't have to be our fantasy of "perfect".

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Expo Canter

My heart was racing from anticipation
and jubilation that could change our nation;

The details making with all norms breaking
the people waking new glory taking.

Christ exalted, satan halted
the world more salted, scripture vaulted.

Shackles broken, minds awoken
doctrine spoken, victory chosen.

Children praising, seniors raving
glory blazing, honor raising

Saints are humbled, ideas crumbled
idols tumbled, principalities jumbled.

God's Word expounded, our hearts more grounded;
new mercy sounded, the Expo founded.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Several things to help pastors enjoy church services

The title of this blog entry may seem very strange to laymen, but I would guess will hit a cord among pastors.  There are many distractions that can rob a pastor from enjoying the very church services into which  he has invested  much thought and effort.  I would like to give you several thoughts that I am continually preaching to myself in this area:

1.  Rest in the fact that this is God's church, not yours.

What I mean by this is, sometimes we feel like all the expectation is on us to perform and make some great thing out of this group of believers.  We bear an unnecessary burden of thinking that it all depends on us and every service must be "super" and above average.  If, and when that does not happen (because it doesn't) we blame ourselves and consider ourselves failures.  Well, listen up "bud" - that ain't your church!  This is God's church, and more specifically - it is Jesus' church.  He is the Head, and He is the leader of it to succeed, fail, or do "average".  Relax - the buck does not stop with you.

2.  Rest in the fact that God is working, so you don't have to manipulate the work.

What I mean by this is that early in the senior pastorate, I felt like I needed to control the "aura" of any given service by pumping the people up or having a theatrical moment, or interjecting myself artificially during the song service to "get the people more stirred, etc.".  I felt like I could make or break how good a service was and how much the people would get out of it.  I have seen other pastors straining to artificially create something by passionate words, brow beating, church self-promotion, etc.   At best this is arrogant, at worst it is blasphemous against the work of the Holy Spirit.

We would do well to consider Psalms 84:2  My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.   God is alive and working in the place of corporate worship and we don't need to manipulate the service to make it "more so".  I think our part is to communicate that clearly to the people and then to allow God to be God.  We all should be coming to the services to meet corporately with God and expect no less.  If the attention is on the "super" pastor or the "super" music or the "super" church we have, or the "super" service - we are missing the boat and participating in plastic worship.  Pastors, rest in the fact that God is working in hearts.  He really is doing a work that you cannot manipulate.  His sovereign evangelism and sanctification is something that works THROUGH us, not by us.

3.  Believe that you are called, gifted, and used by God.

I have no idea how many times I have run back to this chapter in the pastorate:  2 Corinthians 3:6  Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

Imagine - you and I are "able ministers".  That is such a consolation when you feel like your ministry is worth about 2 cents.  Whether we see results or accolades is not the truth - the truth is, we have the ability to minister for God through the calling and gifts He has bestowed on us.  Our ministry really changes hearts and lives no matter to what extent we ever see it.

So, when I prepare my sermons, when I stand in that pulpit, when I reflect on how I "did" last Sunday - let me look through the lens that I am ministering with supernatural gifts that do not fail.

4.  Come to the services to see the living God yourself.

You are not the one man show at church.  Jesus is the one man show.  When we consider that we are coming to seek and worship the "living God" in corporate worship, we must not think that is for everyone except the pastor.  No, you are coming to engage with the God who is alive also.  The song service is not a segue to your show - it is time to sing in the Spirit.  It is time to lift up Jesus in your own heart.  Stop staring at the schedule to see what comes next - consider the words of the hymn from your heart.  Listen to the song leaders comments (God works through him also).  Listen to the choir's worship instead of focusing on sister Jean who is off key.  That choir isn't singing better or worse for your resume's sake.  They are not singing for YOU.  Focus on the God they are singing to and about.  You are not a better or worse pastor because your song service is primo or pitiful.  You didn't come to the service to build yourself up - you came to see the living God.  One thing that helped our pastors with this was moving off of the platform onto the front row during services.  We are no longer the zoo exhibit, but are part of the congregation engaging in worship ourselves.

5.  Allow the details to be the details and not the main thing on your mind.

I am a detail guy.  I go a bit crazy when the lights aren't on properly, the sound has feedback, there is no centerpiece in front of the pulpit, etc. One of my favorite sayings to staff and helpers is "God is in the details"...but an equally popular saying is "The devil's in the details".  That can certainly be true when we are in a service worshiping and leading worship and the only thing we can focus on is the fact that the piano mic is not on or the projector isn't working correctly.

I think we need to come to the place where we give a certain allowance to details not being exactly right in, well, ANY service.  We are not working with professional ushers, sound system techs, etc. - there will be things not quite right.  I have made the mistake on many occasions to feel negative feelings toward people who I thought should do better, only to realize that they were doing their best - but things "happen".

As pastors, we must strive for excellence and to remove stumblingblocks that interrupt or distract from the message - but ultimately, God WILL sanctify His people despite incorrect details.  I struggle with this, but it is the truth.  If I am so "peeved" by the details that I preach with a bad attitude, then I am grieving the Holy Spirit that wants to use me.  That will never do.

6.  Deflect the "stinkers" that answer to Jesus for how they talk to you.

In every church there are "stinkers" that seem bent on saying exactly the wrong thing to irritate you before or after you preach.  I believe the devil is pinching their bottom or something to say that thoughtless, heartless, distracting, hurtful comment to pull you away from clear ministering.  They say rude things about how long you preach; they correct something that you said; they tell you something they don't like about the church; they complain about some foolish thing or another.   Deflect it - don't engage in it.  I have burned myself time and time again by responding to these comments in a sarcastic or defensive way.  It does not work - nothing works.  That person will stand before the Lord for their resistance and hurtfulness to the ministry and God's servant.  Plain and simple - let God deal with them and give them no energy.  You are not the problem pastor - they are.  It is not "lording" to know that God did not engift or call those people to lead and teach the flock - He called YOU.  You must own and embrace this authority and service and like Nehemiah, ignore the Sanballots and Tobiahs to do God's great work.

I am certainly not condoning deflecting or ignoring valid complaints or concerns.  I am talking about the guy who thinks his spiritual gift is "criticism".  He oozes negativity and discouragement like a nasty burn oozes puss.  Deflect and do not engage.

7.  Don't worry about results.

Now, some will disagree on this point, and I am willing to allow them to be wrong.  One of the great joys that I have had in ministry is not to look at "the numbers" week by week.  We only publish the average attendance once a year at our annual meeting.  Why?  Because being results oriented is a HUGE distraction to actual God-ministering.  It is trellis work and not vine work.  When the numbers are up you think, "Well, look at that - I am really doing something for God."  When the numbers are down you think, "That's it, I'm a failure, I want to quit."  Man of God, listen to me - that is garbage.  Stop looking at the numbers.  *I must credit Dr. Dan Davies with this thinking.

The same is true with responses to the invitation.  Let me blow your mind a moment.  I live on the North East coast and hardly anyone responds physically to the invitation.  When I go preach at different places - people come forward in plenty.  I really don't know if it is our geographical location or the mindset of our church - but people don't usually walk the aisles.  This really troubled me for some time and I even had a pastor recommend that I use the deacons to come forward and "prime the pump" so others would come.....Long sigh here for Arminian manipulation.........

Men, the work of sanctification is not "decisionism", but rather the change in hearts and lives as the work of God "untwists" people's minds long-term to conform them to Christ.  Sometimes, invitation calls (as emotional as they can get) are really replacements for the true repentance of the heart that  isn't the business of any person seeing you walk forward to an "altar".  Over the years we have seen real and lasting growth spiritually in our people though they are not big on walking an aisle.  We must believe in God's living work of changing the heart, and not put our trust in the physical response/ result of seeing people come at a man-method invitation.  But...we are just men and want to see those results for our own validation that we are a "good pastor".  We must focus on faithfulness and the final "well done" rather than present results.   When I can free my mind from those man-made expectations - then I can enjoy preaching the life-changing Word of God without trying to make more people come forward to please my immature heart or the voices of my critics.

Well, I have written much but I hope this will be a blessing to some of my pastor friends and enlightenment for laymen.  Let's get back to enjoying our church services again and engaging with the living God who occupies the pillar and ground of truth.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wait...Jesus said what?

Luke 21:16-19  And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.  (17)  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.  (18)  But there shall not an hair of your head perish.  (19)  In your patience possess ye your souls.

I believe I first heard Tim Keller  reference this passage.  It was an "aha" moment for me in understanding the mind of God concerning bad things that happen to believers.

The context is Jesus revealing to his disciples what would happen as they stood for Him.  I have not studied in depth the eschatological timing of the paragraph, but it seems prophetic to the last times - perhaps the beginning of the Tribulation.

What is shocking here is v.16 that says "some of you shall they cause to be put to death", and then v.18 says "But there shall not an hair of your head perish."  If ever there seemed to be a direct contradiction, it must be "put to death" and "not a hair of your head perish."  However, in some very strange, deep, Spirit of God way - it makes sense in God's sovereignty.

I am learning that bad things, really bad things that happen to believers are also the "servants" of God.  To be clear, I am talking about people that are doing you harm, illness, calamity, tragedy, car accidents, etc, etc, etc.  Somewhere in my 40's conversations about "all things work together for good" moved from theory to stark reality in a harsh way.  It's great to say that, to preach it, to encourage people with it - but do we really believe in our hearts that "calamity" is an employee of God?

I am presently reading Jerry Bridges on Trusting God when life hurts.  I have been illuminated to the working of God to use our enemies to ultimately work His will and our good.  Bridges lays out irrefutable Biblical proof of this.  I have "known" that for years, but somehow it is really sinking in.

So, back to the verse -- how can we be executed, but not a hair on our head perish??  The way to understand this is that physical/emotional/financial harm to us cannot be truly defined as "bad" considering that we have a Sovereign Father that refuses to allow anything to ultimately prosper that would destroy, irrevocably injure, or annihilate the "real us".  In fact - everything that is allowed to happen to us is occurring for our good and blessing.  Let me say that another way - even the most evil evil is the emissary of God to work sanctification, blessing, and the perfect will of God to us.  This includes dying at God's appointed time by the hands of an executioner.  When we are "dying" - not one of our hairs is perishing.  We are well, we are better than well.  

Now, don't get me wrong - we don't "feel" well.  But, even that pain of anxiety, fear, distress, etc. is working the experience of patience and hope in us that leads to realizing the love of God.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  Romans 5  
There is then, a euphoric liberty that comes to the child of God that really believes that God is so committed to him in the love of grace that He will never allow anything to ultimately harm him.  

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love

So, in the strange workings of the Sovereignty of God - we may be killed, but not one of our hairs can be harmed.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Have you struggled with the swine?

This morning I read the story of Jesus sending the demons into the 2000 swine. (Matthew 8)  I admit that I have not done a long or deep study on the passage, so that may account for my present confusion.

My confusion is this - did Jesus destroy the livelihood of the owners of the swine as a result of doing a righteous thing for the two demon possessed men?  I know that is not the heart of the story, but I do wonder.  What does this event tell us about the working of God?  Does the ownership of the swine not matter to God?

I love these sort of questions because they usually lead to a deeper thinking and understanding of the character of God.  I love Biblical questions that challenge my view of who God is because they normally sharpen the understanding of who God is after meditation.

We should not just skip through thinking about such tough questions.  We should not be afraid of such challenges, or try to "re-form" God into the person we have imagined Him to be - but rather clear our minds  and in faith look at what Christ concerning the pigs and say:  Lord, teach me about your character through this Word of God.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gospel>Confederate Flag=Remove racial offense

I just want to make a quick comment for the hearts of believers that perhaps grew up in a racially charged environment such as I did.  It is very hard to leave the traditions of racial bigotry behind and move forward in the truths of the Gospel that lavishes love on every tribe, kindred, and nation.

However, we must move on and grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that died for Jews and Gentiles alike --- He died for blacks, whites, Indians, Middle Easterners, etc., etc.  Heaven will be filled with people from all earthly ethnic origins.  God is both the Creator of all races as well as the Redeemer of all races.

Racial thoughts of superiority, "Cain's curse", "tower of Babel curse", etc. must be rejected and condemned under the loving truths of Christ's Gospel.

And so we consider the *Confederate Battle Flag flying over South Carolina and on the license plates of some believers.  Is it offensive to those Christ loves?  YES.  Does it erect a barrier to give and live the Gospel?  YES.  Can it divide me from my black Christian brother?  YES

Years ago, a black man came to me and expressed hurt over a confederate flag displayed on another believer's car.  He explained to me what that symbol means to the black community.  He could not understand why a believer would display it on their vehicle.  As followers of Jesus Christ - we have been born again to live the love of Christ.  The Gospel is greater than any nostalgic Southern symbol.  We are first Gospel believers before any other allegiance to this fallen world.

*The Flag that is often called the Confederate Flag is not the flag of the Confederacy; the design was actually rejected as the Southern Confederate flag and became the battle flag of the armies of Virginia under General Lee.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

You know not what a day will bring forth

It is shocking to realize how fragile life is.  One minute you are minding your own business doing the same things day after day after day, and the next minute you are trying to arrange details because your daughter is in A.I. Dupont Hospital with an infection entering her kidneys!

We are thankful that Emma is stabilized today and may even come home, but these occasions cause you to see things that are often taken for granted:

1.  Life can change in a moment - it is great that God is sovereign.

2.  When you are sleep deprived, swirling, whirling and can't pray clearly - the Holy Spirit can, and its OK.

3.  There is great power within us during crisis. - we can do things we never thought we could.

4.  There is power in family when crisis hits - even children become noble when there are great needs.

5.  The power of a mother's nurture, resourcefulness, and strength rises up when her child is in need.

6.  When your child is hurting, love feelings flow from you that are evidence both of being created in the image of the heavenly Father, and the redemptive love of God that has found us.  When you realize the intensity of this love you have toward your little one, you understand how the Father feels about you in a much greater way.

7.  Nothing else matters when a family member is in trouble.  Everything is expendable.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Jesus' 49 Commands

Several people asked for this list after the Sermon from I John 2:3-7  This is a list of 49 commandments that Jesus gave.  Some count 50, and I notice on this list that there is a repeat.  This list is from Bill Gothard, but I definitely DO NOT RECOMMEND him or his ministry.  I have edited the list slightly.

  1. Repent—Matthew 4:17—Humility
  2. Follow Me—Matthew 4:19—Meekness
  3. Rejoice—Matthew 5:12—Joyfulness
  4. Let Your Light Shine—Matthew 5:16—Generosity
  5. Honor God’s Law—Matthew 5:17–18—Love
  6. Be Reconciled—Matthew 5:24–25—Responsibility
  7. Do Not Commit Adultery—Matthew 5:29–30—Self-Control
  8. Keep Your Word—Matthew 5:37—Truthfulness
  9. Go the Second Mile—Matthew 5:38–42—Deference
  10. Love Your Enemies—Matthew 5:44—Creativity
  11. Be Perfect—Matthew 5:48—Sincerity
  12. Practice Secret Charity—Matthew 6:1–18—Faith
  13. Lay Up Treasures—Matthew 6:19–21—Thriftiness
  14. Seek God’s Kingdom—Matthew 6:33—Initiative
  15. Judge Not—Matthew 7:1—Discernment
  16. Do Not Cast Pearls—Matthew 7:6—Discretion
  17. Ask, Seek, and Knock—Matthew 7:7–8—Resourcefulness
  18. Do Unto Others—Matthew 7:12—Sensitivity
  19. Choose the Narrow Way—Matthew 7:13–14—Decisiveness
  20. Beware of False Prophets—Matthew 7:15—Alertness
  21. Pray For Laborers—Matthew 9:38—Compassion
  22. Be Wise as Serpents—Matthew 10:16—Wisdom
  23. Fear God, Not Man—Matthew 10:26—Boldness
  24. Hear God’s Voice—Matthew 11:15—Attentiveness
  25. Take My Yoke—Matthew 11:29—Obedience
  26. Honor Your Parents—Matthew 15:4—Honor/Reverence
  27. Beware of Leaven—Matthew 16:6—Virtue
  28. Deny Yourself—Luke 9:23—Determination
  29. Despise Not Little Ones—Matthew 18:10—Tolerance
  30. Go to Offenders—Matthew 18:15—Justice
  31. Beware of Covetousness—Luke 12:15—Contentment
  32. Forgive Offenders—Matthew 18:21–22—Forgiveness
  33. Honor Marriage—Matthew 19:6—Loyalty
  34. Be a Servant—Matthew 20:26–28—Availability
  35. Be a House of Prayer (Corporate prayer)—Matthew 21:13—Persuasiveness
  36. Ask in Faith—Matthew 21:21–22—Patience
  37. Bring in the Poor—Luke 14:12–14—Hospitality
  38. Render to Caesar—Matthew 22:19–21—Gratefulness
  39. Love the Lord—Matthew 22:37–38—Enthusiasm
  40. Love Your Neighbor—Matthew 22:39—Gentleness
  41. Await My Return—Matthew 24:42–44—Punctuality
  42. Take, Eat, and Drink (take the Lord's Supper)—Matthew 26:26–27—Thoroughness
  43. Be Born Again—John 3:7—Security
  44. Keep My Commandments—John 14:15—Diligence
  45. Watch and Pray—Matthew 26:41—Endurance
  46. Feed My Sheep—John 21:15–16—Dependability
  47. Baptize My Disciples—Matthew 28:19—Cautiousness
  48. Receive God’s Power—Luke 24:49—Orderliness
  49. Make Disciples—Matthew 28:20—Flexibility

Monday, February 9, 2015

Do we really need another "10 Things About Your Church" article?

I am growing a bit tired and honestly put out with the number of "10 things your church is doing wrong"or "10 things that are driving young people away from your church" articles.  The one I read today named things like which doors you unlock, using last names from the pulpit, and dreaming.  Really?

To be honest with you, our church probably fails many of the strategies of the church gurus.  It irritates me to even consider that methods are really at the heart of why a church succeeds or fails.  Isn't that a bit man-centered?  Now, don't get me wrong - we are very concerned about doing things excellently, in order, beautifully, etc.; but this is not really why our church has consistently grown and thrived in our 14 years of existence.

I read the reasons young people are leaving the church and am thankful for the young people staying and actually coming to our church.  I read about making "this effective" and "that effective" and how to "dream" and let young people have a voice, yada, yada, yada.

This really isn't the heart of the matter.  You can follow all of these articles to the "t" and people walk right out the back door.  The element that I believe makes the difference between people staying, going, coming, etc. is Passion for the Lord especially in the leaders.

Passion for the Lord is contagious.  Like a magnet, believers are drawn to those who are drawn to the Lord.  "Follow me as I follow Christ".  Passion for the Lord isn't just emotion.  The "for the Lord" part comes out in very real ways - especially an emphasis on preaching/teaching the exact context of what God is saying and an emphasis on walking with Him closely.  This is the target of passion - wanting what He is saying and wanting to be with Him.

But, this is turning into another "10 things article"!  You can't fake passion for the Lord.  It rises out of dependency, insufficiency, lack of brilliance, lack of ideas, etc. --- it is when you need the Lord so very much that He shows Himself strong.  I am convinced that believers are drawn to this sort of "abiding" philosophy in a church.  Lighthouse has grown over the years because people are drawn with passion to the Lord.  It is real and the greatest reason in my opinion why people are coming and staying.  It has little to do with programs and nothing to do with "10 things".

Another issue that I have with these articles is the assumption that it is the Lord's will that you have a growing (#) church.  Yes, I said that.  The Lord calls us to be faithful in our churches - not numerically successful.  Some of the most healthy and faithful ministries that I know are churches under 100 people.      Faithful churches are different sizes, and that's ok - that is God's will.  Our church is in a geographical area with thousands and thousands of people.  We have great East Coast traffic and visitors every Sunday.  We have hundreds of visitors per year.  We have much more opportunity to add people than a church that is "in the sticks".  It is not helpful for a church who has lesser opportunities for traffic and growth to focus on their perceived failures.  These articles seem to just make pastors feel more insufficient and failing.

We have been privileged for the Lord to grow our church - but I see no miracle "10 things".  Yes - work hard; yes - do things excellently; yes - plan; yes - keep up to date; yes - consider age groups etc. Mostly though, be passionate for the Lord and faithful in your church.  To me, this is much better (and more simple) than the latest "10 things" someone has dreamed up.  Can God use this in a thriving way?  He has in our church.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Philly Auto Show and Tent City

Last night it was my joy to go with my son Dan to the Philly Auto Show.  Andrew had to work, so my 14 year old and I went to enjoy one of our favorite things - cool cars.

I love cars.  I know that is not something unique, but with me it goes much deeper.  I understand Fahvergnugen (the feeling you get when you and your car are one).  From a young man I grew up appreciating and being able to identify vehicles.  I can feel every stutter, bump, and sound a car that I drive makes.  I love older muscle cars, I hate cars of the 1970's-80's.  My present favorite car is the Nissan GT-R.

As we walked through the rows and rows of cars, we saw everything from Lambos to Bentley's to Subaru Tuners to hybrid McLarens.  I can't even imagine the net value of the hundred's of cars in that room.  I imagine it is in the upper millions.

As we drove away from drooling over the new Z06 and HellCat, I couldn't help thinking of the people of Tent City Maryland, just a few miles from our church.  God has allowed us to minister to several of these homeless folks through our God's Helping Hands ministry.

What a dichotomy of reality that only a few miles apart there are people that dream about $500,000 cars and people who dream about having food, being warm, being clean, being safe, having a roof over their heads.  A man told me this week "we can't help all the poor people".  This is true - but wouldn't the love of Christ within us would have us help some?

Conservative Christians in my view are way behind the curve in this.  In Elkton, Md. where "Tent City" is located, it is the liberal churches, for the most part, that are engaging with the poor.  They are feeding them, housing them, clothing them, helping them.  Are we so afraid of the social gospel that we cannot do something systematic and substantive to get our hands dirty helping them while we give them the true Gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus?

We cry for "Revival" and yet our sins of neglect and elitism distance us from following Christ.  God help us to know how to engage with the poor around us - not to empower their irresponsibility, but to show them the love of Christ and perhaps lift them to salvation and self dependency.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Revival Meetings at Dundalk, MD

I want to thank those of you who were praying for me and Freedom Baptist Church this past week.

Freedom is an awesome church with such a fresh attitude.  Since April, Pastor Barry Secrest has led the church from about 15 to 70 mostly through relational evangelism.  He is in the community constantly and has a bulldog attitude of love that really gets involved with the people's lives.

The Lord used His Word and worked on the hearts of many people including a teenage young man who professed Christ as Savior.

I have decided that an Evangelist's life is not for me :).  I texted with Evangelist Rich Harper during the meetings and asked him how he did it.  You have the long nights of preaching and ministering and then the days of preparation and anticipation for the nights!  Add traveling back and forth to Baltimore and it makes for an intense ministry week.

I feel like I needed this week as a pastor myself as well.  It is good to periodically step away from your own ministry to be renewed in mind and thought even if you are ministering to another church body.  We had such a good Annual Meeting the week before this revival and I am asking the Lord to guide me and Lighthouse to where He can best use us for expanding and exalting His Kingdom.

There are other things going on in my heart also.  God is helping me to die more to self especially in the area of fearing men in the ministry.  What I mean is, a pastor needs to be extremely pliable to the will and direction of the Lord first and foremost.  If he begins tailoring his ministry to the wants/desires/loud voices of his own church or "camp", he is compromising his calling.  Sometimes, pastors allow "loud voices" to influence and lead them in a way that makes them captive because they fear the consequences of standing up to others or teaching what they know to be true because it will upset the applecart of tradition, etc.

In Dangerous Calling, Tripp wrote, "There is a way in which, as a pastor, you should care less about what people think about you.  Now, here's what I mean:  you do not look to them to give you courage, hope, peace, rest, and a reason to continue.  As a result, you are freed from being all too attentive to how they respond to you and all too fearful of your detractors.  You are in trouble as a pastor when you need regular doses of appreciation and respect in order to continue.  Yes, you know you need the ministry of the body of Christ, and you want to be open to that ministry, but you are freed from riding the anxiety-driven roller coaster of people's opinion."