Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Should Write a Letter to Myself More Often


I was at a youth conference this summer and one of the things we were encouraged to do was to write a letter to ourselves.  This letter was to remind us about what God was teaching us at the conference and to help keep us accountable.  Did we actually follow through with what we felt God was leading us to do?  Well, I recently received this letter in the mail and it came at exactly the write time.  The first paragraph of the letter said this:

"It's been a good week.  God has moved and worked again.  Kids are pumped and primed to do things.  It's been approximately three months.  What have you led them to do?  Have you looked at them as your own kids?  Have you loved them and seen the unseen?  Don't get weak or soft.  Press on."

Reading that first paragraph was so good for me because it gave me some tangible things to look at and answer ... Have I helped set our kids on mission?  Have I loved our students as my own kids?  Have I focused on the ones that often do not get focused on?

The second paragraph of the letter said this:  

"Allow Jesus to pour Himself in to your life.  Don't seek great things.  Don't seek favor from men.  Seek God.  Seek Him every day.  Listen for His voice every day."

Reading that second paragraph reminded me that being in ministry is a combination of two things ... God's work in my personal life and allowing God to work through my life.  The most important relationship I have in my life is my relationship with God.  Life just stays so much more healthy when I'm finding my fulfillment in Him rather than anything else.  My marriage is so much more healthy when I'm finding my fulfillment in Jesus rather than placing unrealistic expectations upon my wife.  My ministry is so much more healthy if I'm finding my wholeness in Jesus rather than in my ministry itself. 

As I allow Jesus to pour in to me, I then have a greater capacity to pour in to others.  What's awesome about that is that Jesus' capacity to pour in to us is endless!  The more I allow Him to pour in to me, the more He does.  The more grace I need in my life, the more grace He gives.  The more strength I need in my life, the more strength He gives.  Jesus gives to me in direct proportion to my need.  The more I need I am, the more He is willing to give.  

A guy by the name of Jeremiah wrote this during or after the capture of the city he lived in.  Jeremiah also experienced incredible persecution in his life ... beaten, thrown in prison, tormented for his relationship with God.  He knew a little something about being in need.  He said,  "Because of the Lords’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."  (Lamentations 3:22 - 23)

His grace and mercy and strength are always there.  His mercies are new every morning.  As long as I'm open to receiving them, they will never run out! The more I receive them, the more I'm able to give them out.  I certainly don't do this perfectly.  It's a constant battle to try to keep things in balance.  But, receiving this letter was such a powerful reminder to me that the more I seek God and allow myself to be led by Him, the more equipped I am to lead my family and my ministry and empty myself in to others as I allow Jesus to pour what He offers (love, grace, mercy, faithfulness) in to me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Communion

This past weekend, we were able to celebrate Communion at Grace.  We take practice a "3 Part" Communion in which we reflect on everything that Jesus has done, is currently doing, and will do in the future.  The night is a very powerful journey of reflection and focusing on Jesus.  


We start out our night by focusing on Jesus and the price He paid for us on the cross.  We spend time reflecting and also asking God to forgive us of anything that we have allowed to get in the way of our relationship with Him.



We move on to the next part of the journey which is a "foot washing."  We do this as families.  The foot washing represents our daily need for Jesus.  It helps us to realize that we can allow things to get in the way of our relationship with Him and we need to be cleansed of those things.  It also is a sign of humility.  When Jesus washing His disciples feet in John 13 He was taking on the role of a servant and doing what no one else really wanted to do.  It's a great example for us all to follow.  Also, doing it as a family gave families a time to focus on each other and pray together.




We then moved to a "Thankfulness Journey" ... a time in which we read 7 different things on gratitude and thankfulness and we asked to reflect on how we could be more grateful in our lives and if there was someone or something we had been taking for granted.  



After the "Thankfulness Journey" we moved to taking the "Bread and the Cup."  This is a time of reflection on Jesus paying the penalty for our sin on the cross.  Jesus said that every time we do this, we do it to remember Him. (1 Corinthians 11:23 - 25)  It's an incredibly powerful thing to focus on.





After the Bread and Cup, we enjoyed a meal together looking ahead to heaven and us being with Jesus.  You can read about that in Revelation 19:6 - 9.  



We then celebrate!  The Bible says "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" (Revelation 19:9)  If we're blessed, we want to celebrate that so we worship and dance and, this time, even dropped confetti!  It was awesome!



The night was a very powerful night and I'm so thankful that we take time to remember and reflect on these things.  I always leave feeling more blessed and thankful.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rising to a Challenge


Yesterday afternoon I went for a run and two of my kids wanted to come with me.  So, I took them for a mile jog and it was such a good time!  With a 1/4 of a mile left I noticed that they were both starting to get pretty tired.  So, I was trying to think of how to motivate them a bit.  So, I asked my son a simple question ... "Do you think you can beat Mercy to the house?"  Without hesitation he said "Yep."  He then took off and never looked back!  

As I watched him run on ahead, I was reminded about how motivating a simple challenge can be.  What was turning in to boredom was given new life when it became a challenge.  We like to rise to meet challenges.  This is true for both men and women, but I think it's particularly true for men.  Men have an innate calling to "rise up" and nothing causes us to rise up more than a challenge.  Every challenged faced gives us the strength to face another.  Every challenge overcome, gives us the courage to believe we can overcome another.  And, even if the challenge results in a defeat, one has still allowed themselves to rise to the occasion and that, in itself, is a win every time.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Family Pics

We recently received an early Christmas gift from a family at our church.  Darcy is a professional photographer (you can check out her amazing work here) and she decided to give each of the pastors and their families a 30 minute photo session for Christmas.  We felt incredibly blessed by the gift and we had lots of fun getting the pictures taken.  It was such a great day for us as a family.  Here are some of the shots below.  You can see why they bring such joy to my life!







Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Three Simple Thoughts on the Election Results


I went to bed last night before all of the election results came in, so I woke up this morning to discover that President Obama had been re-elected.  My next move was to then go on my regular social media sites and read what others thought about the results of the election.  I have friends who would be considered extremely liberal ... others extremely conservative ... and quite a few that would fall in between somewhere.  Some were gloating.  Some were complaining.  Some were cursing.  Some were proud.  Some were saying how disappointed they were in America.  Some were saying that America made the best decision it could have made.  Others were talking about how everyone who voted for President Obama simply wants a handout while those who voted for Romney will now just go back to work and support everyone else.  Some were called bigots.  Others were called racists.  Some remarks were, honestly, quite funny and light-hearted.  There were comments on both sides that I agreed with ... others I disagreed with ... and some were totally offensive to me.  But, it all brought to mind a few simple thoughts ...

  • I'm thankful to live in a country that's a bit "messy."  We can't claim the right of free speech without being willing to tolerate someone using that right.  While the "venom" that has been spewed in social media from both sides is honestly quite nauseating to me, I'd much rather be nauseated by the right of free speech than to be nauseated by someone trying to control what I say.
  • (I'm a pastor, so this is my Biblical analogy) Our freedom allows us the right to say what we wish but freedom ... like grace ... can be taken advantage of.  Just because we CAN say something doesn't mean we SHOULD.  In the same way, I believe that God's grace covers all of my sin, but that doesn't give me the right to just go and do what I want simply because God forgives me.  Grace calls me to a higher standard.  Freedom should as well.
  • Healthy conflict is a good thing.  The key word, though, is "healthy."  Something I've learned in my marriage is that it's not the absence of conflict that builds intimacy, but it's the handling of conflict properly that helps build intimacy between my wife and I.  In marriage,the reality of two imperfect people pledging to live together, with all their faults, with all their imperfections, for the rest of their lives means that all of those faults and all of those imperfections will become very evident to each other … for the rest of their lives. 
    When my wife and I face those imperfections, we have a choice:  to respond through our sinfulness ... with bitterness, jealousy, resentment, selfish ambition ... or to respond in a way that seeks to please God?  Responding with honor, respect, and dignity to the other.  I don't claim to know much about life, but what I have discovered is that hatred generally breeds hatred.  Disrespect usually breeds disrespect.  Dishonor usually breeds dishonor.  Again, I'm a pastor.  Jesus gave us a pretty good rule to live by ... "Treat others the way you yourself would like to be treated."  Doesn't mean there won't be conflict.  But, the conflict can have a greater purpose than simply demeaning the other person.  When handled properly it can actually produce powerful results.

    So, I, like millions of other liberals and conservatives and people in between will continue to work hard ... continue to pay my taxes ... continue to pray for our nation and it's leaders asking God to help them lead with integrity and wisdom and the principles upon which our nation was founded ... and I will continue to live a life of gratitude thankful to all who fought and died for my right to express my thoughts and vote my convictions.  


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