Whatever I have...

Feetwash This past Sunday I attended a large Nazarene Church in Visalia, California. The services were outstanding! It's refreshing to just 'go to church' with my wife every once in a while. I even wore jeans and enjoyed a latte during the service. SWEET!

During the service the pastor flashed a picture of about 7-8 men on the screen who were all gifted mechanics in their church. These guys get together and fix up cars that are donated to the church and then gift them to single moms and others with need for reliable transportation. They call this the NAZcar Ministry. That's really cool!

I got to thinking about how many talented folks attend church every week and never think to use their talents for ministry. Doesn't it just make sense to do for the Lord what we are already really good at doing? If you are a musician, then use your gift. If you happen to be a teacher, then teach. If you are a great cook, then find a way to use your cooking for the Lord. Maybe you are a talented seamstress...use that gift for the Lord. If you can fix up cars, then do it. If you have computer skills, use them for the Kingdom. If you have a green thumb, use that green thumb for God! The list is endless!

I love the passage in Acts where Peter and John go up to the temple to pray and are challenged by a crippled man to offer a gift. Peter looks at the man and says, "I don't have silver or gold, but what I do have is yours...". What do you have that could be used by God to minister to others?

If we're not careful we find ourselves attending church as observers and consumers. That is not what God called us to. He called us to take up our crosses and follow him. He called us to be servants.

What are you doing for the Lord? How are you serving Him?


It Sure Makes Everything Else Seem So Small

Carrieunderwood I had a meeting today that I was a little stressed about. As usual, everything went well and all the time I spent stressing and worrying was pointless. God is in control. One of my favorite ways of chillin' after a meeting like this is to drive and listen to music. I chose to listen to Carrie Underwood today and was really blessed by her song 'So Small'. The song is really good from start to finish but the particular line that caught my attention was in the chorus...

"sometimes that mountain you've been climbing is just a grain of sand, and what you've been up there searching for forever, is in your hands,
oh when you figure out love is all that matters after all,
it sure makes everything else seem so small"

The truth is, we do struggle and stress over things that really are small when we look at the big picture. I got to thinking about all the things that fill our lives with worry and stress and here's something to think about. The greatest things in my life are my relationships. My relationship with the Lord, my wife, children, family, and friends. I could still enjoy all of these relationships without anything else, but I would not really enjoy all of life's other things without these relationships. "Love is all that matters after all".

The line "What you've been up there searching for forever, is in your hands" is pretty amazing too. It is very sad when we find ourselves feverishly chasing things that we think will make us happy, while all the while we already have them. Sometimes we need to go back and read 1 Timothy 6:6 and stop chasing things that will never satisfy.

There's another reason I like Carrie Underwood. If you look her up on Wikipedia you'll discover that she is a fellow Free Will Baptist. :)


Find Time To Be Still

"Be Still And Know..."

Sometimes life has us moving at breakneck speed. Our mornings start with us behind schedule, we run all day long just trying to catch up, and then in exhaustion we crash into bed at night. We burn through days, weeks, months, and even years. Our souls are constantly running on empty. Why? Maybe because we think all the things we do are just that important. Maybe they're not though! Just a thought.

  • "Be still, and know that I am God.I will be exalted among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalms 46:10 ESV)
  • "Be silent, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world." (Psalms 46:10 NLT)
  • "Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything." (Psalms 46:10 MSG)

It might not hurt us every once in a while to remove ourselves from life's fast-lane and be still for a while. Be silent. Let God be God. Acknowledge that He is in control of all things and that He can handle things while we take some time to rest. The end result of everything is that God will be exalted in the earth, throughout the world, and above everything. Guess what! Nothing will stop this from happening.

It is hard to be still. I'm working in our Christian school this week. In fact I'm in a classroom at this very moment with ten wonderful yet unbelievably active students. I have just read the above scripture to them and challenged them to just 'be still' for a few moments. It is killing them! Heads are wobbling from side to side, feet are shuffling to find a comfortable place to rest, thumbs are twitching, they are about to explode. It is very hard to be still.

We make attempts at 'being still' but most of the time even when we are 'still' we aren't. We sit in a living room or movie theater and remain very still, but our eyes, ears, and imagination are very busy. We lay very still in our beds at night, but music, talk radio, or sermons are constantly playing in the background. We set aside time for devotions and even then podcasts, books, and articles keep us busy. When are we ever really 'still'? I'm pretty sure that when we really examine our lifestyles most of us never take the time to just "Be still, and know that I am God...".

I wonder what taking 10 or 15 minutes each day to sit alone in a dark quiet room and just 'be still' and "know" that God is God would do for us.


Stop Stressing

Messages_from_godStop Stressing! Definitely easier to say than to do, right? We all have stressful things to deal with in life but some handle the stress better than others. We, as Christians, should be the very best at handling stress. That's not always the case though. If we are not careful the church can be one of the most stressful places around.

In the tenth chapter of Deuteronomy God gave us a wonderful "stress reducing" nugget. This passage of scripture contains two very important thoughts that, if understood and applied, could literally lift the weight of the world from our shoulders.

"And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires you to fear him, to live according to his will, to love and worship him with all your heart and soul, and to obey the LORD's commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good. The highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the LORD your God." (Deuteronomy 10:12-14)

First, God asks and answers the question that keeps many people stressed out. What is expected of me? Unfortunately, a lot of people go through life trying to please God without ever asking God what He wants? How can we ever please God if we don't know what God expects? So, what does God want from us? He wants us to respect, submit, love, and obey. While pleasing God is no small task, it really isn't all that complicated. I think sometimes we "stress out" about things that really don't matter to God.

God then reminds us that everything belongs to Him. He owns it all! We are stewards (managers) of many things, but owners of nothing. It's all His! True, it is no small responsibilty to manage the things God entrust to us, but don't forget that He does 'trust' us. God would never give us more than we are capable of handling. God knows everything! He knows our gifts and abilities because He is the one who gave them to us, and He knows exactly what we are capable of. The amazing thing about stewardship is that while we take responsibility, God is the one who takes the risk. Remember, it's all His!

I have to remind myself of this stewardship vs. ownership principle often. All of my work revolves around taking care of God's things, not mine. I'm sure I'm not alone and we probably stress over some of the same things. Here's a few things that can get us stressed out if we're not careful.

  • PEOPLE: "Peter asked Jesus, "What about him, Lord?" Jesus replied, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me." (John 21:21-22) Quit stressing about what OTHERS do or don't do! Let God worry about that. We have enough to do without worrying about our brothers and sisters.
  • MONEY: Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33) Our God will bless us and provide for us far better than we could ever do for ourselves. Quit stressing! Remember, Dad owns it all!
  • PREACHERS (Yes, They stress me out sometimes too!): Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord's power will help them do as they should. (Romans 14:4) God has called me to American Canyon. He called me to feed His sheep here, not throw rocks at the shepherd down the street. I hate preacher politics, and I suspect God does too.
  • THE CHURCH: "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) I just do what God tells me to do and trust Him to build His church. I TRY not to take things personally, it's not MY church, it's HIS.
  • CHILDREN: Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it. (Proverbs 22:6) My children belong to God! He has trusted me to take care of them, to nurture and admonish them.

The list could go on! I'm sure you get the point though. EVERYTHING! It all belongs to God! I take these responsibilities seriously, but ultimately they are God's things! Think about it! We talk about God's Church, God's Man, God's People, God's Kingdom, God's Money. They are all His and He will always take care of His things. So maybe we can quit stressing so much.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. (1 Peter 5:7)


The Gift That Nobody Wants

"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." (Philippians 1:27-30)

charizomai; to grant as a favor, that is, gratuitously, in kindness, pardon or rescue: - deliver, (freely) give, grant.

We probably don't think of suffering as a gift but according to the Word, it is. I think it would be fair to say that it is the gift that nobody wants. We are so quick to complain when we suffer from persecution, sickness, or accident. John Piper has said, "So Satan has one design for our suffering in persecution, and God has a different design for that very same experience". Here's a list of seven reasons God allows suffering for His servants.

  1. God disciplines through suffering. (Hebrews 12)
  2. Enduring suffering increases a sense of God's glory in heaven. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
  3. Suffering tends to embolden indifferent Christians. (Philippians 1:14)
  4. Suffering gives credence to our message in the eyes of those we are trying to reach. (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6)
  5. Suffering is a way for God to rally His troops. (Acts 1:8, 8:1, 11:19)
  6. Suffering magnifies the power and sufficiency of Christ. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
  7. Suffering testifies to God's power over Satan. (Revelation 12:9-11)

I need to get busy suffering (studying for a Final Exam tonight at 8:00 p.m.) so that's all for now.

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The Words Of My Mouth

Big_mouth May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14

I've been thinking about this all week after overhearing a group of people talking at Starbucks in Visalia. I wasn't trying to listen, I was trying to read and enjoy my coffee. Wow! People can be so venomous with their tongues.

There are some expressions floating around these days that are very disturbing. Where do these things come from? We hear them and then repeat them, not even thinking about what we're really saying. I'm sure we're all guilty of using expressions that we don't completely understand. Sometimes we even make statements that are far more harmful than we realize.

  • "I'm through with you" = Man, I would hate to hear Jesus say this to me. Aren't we called to be patient with one another? "Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love." Ephesians 4:23
  • "I don't get paid enough for this" = I love this one! The church is filled with volunteers who don't get paid anything to do what they're doing. We do what we do for the Lord! If we are doing it for money, I'm not sure we could ever be paid enough. Someone once said that the key to happiness is to find something you enjoy doing so much that you would be willing to do it for free, and then do it so well that people will be willing to pay you to do it. That makes sense to me. We all get tired at times but don't forget that we will be rewarded.  "So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time." Galatians 6:9

  • "I don't really care what you do" = I think we do care, and this is just a mean thing to say. What we are really saying is we don't care about the person. We are frustrated and so we just give up! There is no way, however, to escape the fact that we all have an impact on each other. If we don't care, then we better start! "This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally. If one member suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad." 1 Corinthians 12:25-26

  • "I'm not the only one..." = This seems to be the contemporary version of "Everyone else is doing it". Don't we teach are kids not to live this way? When we want to do something we know is wrong, it feels better if we're not the only one doing it. When we don't want to do something we know we should, it feels better not being the only one. The problem is that we will all stand individually before God one day and answer for our actions, good or bad. "For we must all stand before Christ and be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies." 2 Corinthians 5:10
  • "I need to focus on me right now" = The key to happiness? JESUS...OTHERS...YOU! (JOY) We usually say this when we are about to adjust our priorities and place ourselves at the top, or we're getting ready to put something before God. "The he said to the crowd,"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23
  • "I know it's wrong, God will forgive me" = Be careful! You might want to read Hebrews again..."Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received a full knowledge of the truth, there is no other sacrifice that will cover these sins." Hebrews 10:26 Don't you just hate it when you can't do what you want?
  • "That's not my responsibility" = Our responsibility is to win this world to Christ. Whatever it takes! We're all part of this team called the church. Every once in a while someone fumbles the ball, and if we want to win, we must be there to recover the fumble. How many football games have been won by somebody recovering a fumble? The church needs team players! Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

It's not even Sunday and I'm preaching! To use a common expression, I'm probably preaching to the choir. Hopefully!


Staying Spiritually Fueled

I am kind of notorious at Harvest for running my cars on empty. More than once, a lot more, I have had to call someone and have them bring me a gallon of fuel. I have actually built up quite a collection of other people's gas cans over the years. I have never found myself stranded because I didn't have gas money. I have usually had money in my wallet or an available debit card. There are several reasons I tend to run out of gas. I don't take the time to stop and refuel, I don't pay attention to the gas gauge, or I live on the edge and see how far I can go without filling up.

If I'm not careful, from time to time, I find myself running on empty spiritually. Usually for the same reasons mentioned above. I just don't take the time to stop and refuel, I don't pay attention to the gauges, or I think I'm invincible and don't need to refuel. I'm sure I'm not the only one who runs around on fumes. It's very important to know who to call if you ever find yourself stranded. It's probably more important and easier to just keep filling up.

There are certain things that re-energize me, fire me up, and keep me rolling spiritually. Reading is one of those things! I'm usually juggling about three books at a time. A few weeks ago I was running on fumes spiritually and I realized that I wasn't reading anything at the moment. I took a few hours and tracked down some books to read. What a difference! Relationships are another thing that fuels me. I love people! There are times when I just need to be around people for no other reason than to just have fun. The past few weeks I have thoroughly enjoyed spending some time with families in our church. Rest is another fuel that I have to be careful to take the time for. I get so busy at times that I don't take time out for myself. I go home in the evening and then stay up late so that I can do stuff I didn't have time for during the day. Too many late nights, without getting enough sleep, can really drain you.

What is it that fuels you? What recharges you when you're running on empty? Are you taking the time to refuel? What are the gauges or signs that you are running on empty? Just some things to think about.

For the record...

I'm currently reading "Confessions of a Reformissional Rev." by Mark Driscoll. Mark is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I have Erwin McManus' "The Barbarian Way" on deck. I will share a few quotes from Driscoll's book later this weekend. It's an awesome book and I'm convinced the Lord put this book in my hands at the right time in my ministry.

I just enjoyed some great fellowship at our Christmas Ornament Exchange tonight! Kathy and I were able to host this fun time. We have some really great relationships with families here at Harvest. It's always refreshing to just relax and enjoy each others company.

Rest? I'm heading off to bed now...11:00 p..m.! That's early for me, and I might even sleep in tomorrow!

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Working Together

Cb001941 "But whatever happens to me, you must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ, as citizens of heaven. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing side by side, fighting together for the Good News." Philippians 1:27

A watch is an amazing piece of engineering! So many different sized gears working together to accomplish the watches' purpose, keeping and displaying time. If one gear fails to do it's part in the process, the watch fails to accomplish what it was designed to do, but when all of it's parts are working together the watch is consistent and accurate.

The Church, like the watch, has a purpose for which it was created. The church is made up of many different members and when these members are all doing their part, working together, the church is able to accomplish it's purpose. A great church is consistent in it's fulfillment of the great commission and accurate in it's display of the love of Christ. On the other hand, when members of the church refuse to do their part working together with the other members the church is less effective.

There are several areas where members of the church must work together and when they do, the church experiences victory.

  1. Labor - There is always something to do around the church. Our church property is a huge bilboard that displays to the community how we feel about Christ. When all of the members of the church work together the church property conveys to the community that we love the Lord and care about the church.
  2. Finances - When all of the churches' members are working together in the area of giving the church is fully resourced to accomplish it's mission. Curriculum is available for those who teach, materials are available to those who labor around the buildings, funds are there to send missionaries, and the church is effective.
  3. Participation - We are saved by grace! We are also saved for a purpose. God has a purpose for each member of the church. There is so much that can be accomplished when there are available people. Each member is most effective when they can focus their energy into one area rather than trying to do several things.
  4. Evangelism - Each one of the churches' members has a part in the responsibility of reaching men, women, boys, and girls with the Good News! We all have a responsibilty to share Christ with everyone we meet. We all must work together to make visitors feel welcome! If we all work together the church can be effective at winning our world for Christ.

I want to see people move into a right relationship with Christ and grow to become fully commited followers of Christ. I believe that there are people all around us who want to have a relationship with Christ and have peace with God! The church can either be a part of God's plan by working together, or it can be a huge road block by refusing to work together. Let's all decide to fulfill Philippians 1:27 and work together for the Faith of the Good News!

Don't Forget! Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. in the fellowship hall...

MAN NIGHT: Pizza and Prayer


Let's Call A Church A Church

Nascar_3 I had a conversation the other day with a guy who is not involved in church but felt that his family should be baptized. he wanted to know if he could do it himself at the lake or in a pool. It really took me by surprise since he doesn't usually show an interest in spiritual things, and yet here he was, basically planning his very own church service with himself as the pastor.

I immediately thought of Saul in I Samuel 13:1-14 where Saul decides to take matters into his own hands and do what Samuel the priest should have done. He had been instructed to wait for Samuel to come but he was not patient. He had a battle to fight, his men were running in fear, and he needed to get the sacrifice out of the way so he could do what he wanted to do.

I wonder sometimes about people going to churches that aren't really churches. I know there will be those who don't like what I'm about to say, and maybe I'm wrong, but I'll just tell you what I'm thinking. NASCAR attracts thousands of people to the race track on Sunday and many of them have left an empty spot in their church and feel that it's alright because NASCAR has a church service for them at the track. Years ago, AMWAY would hold weekend conferences and a lot of Christians would go to these and feel justified because they would have a church service at the conference. Shopping malls might do well to consider having church services available on Sunday mornings during the holiday shopping season. That way people could spend all day Sunday shopping and not feel bad about missing church.

Here's the deal. If you want to go to the races then go! If you want to go to a business conference then go! If you need to get away for a weekend then get away! God knows that we need rest. He designed us that way. I just don't like to hear people call these get togethers church. It's not church.

OK, so now if I get run over by a NASCAR with the AMWAY logo on the hood, those of you who read this post will know that it probably wasn't an accident.


Be Strong and Steady

Menworkinglarge_1

I've talked to several people this week who were struggling with discouragment in their ministry. We are all susceptable to discouragement but it is important that we remain strong and steady. There is so much at stake. Remember, our work is not in vain. Don't forget who called you to the work you are doing. He will reward you for your labor.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (I Corinthians 15:58 NLT)

For God is not unfair. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other Christians, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. (Hebrews 6:10-11 NLT)

So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time (Galatians 6:9 NLT)

I will post more on this subject later. I'm off to visit one of our men at the hospital and make a few visits. December 12th we are hosting a Pizza and Prayer Night for men. I'm really jazzed up about this upcoming event.