Ministry

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November 28

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022 is now history.  That is true if you only see thanksgiving as a one-day-a-year event. However, if you see thanksgiving-thankfulness-as part of your life as a follower of Jesus, then it is not over by any stretch.

The church I pastor has served a Thanksgiving meal to the community for years. I’m not exactly sure when we started it (I do remember the two ladies I asked to lead it), but except for 2020, we have offered it to the community. This past Thanksgiving was no exception.

We served, delivered, and did curbside meals for about 120 people this year. I say “about” because I’m in charge of deliveries and will sometimes miss people who come in to eat.

I’ve thought about this some. It takes a gang of people to pull something like this off: the initial set up team (five ladies who knocked it out of the park); the ones who cooked the food and brought it to the location; the ones who served; the ones who put the delivery meals together; the clean up crew; so many others. Why?

Here are my thoughts: you can choose to do something because you have/feel obligated to or you can do something because you cannot not do it.  Guilt vs want to. The latter is much more satisfying. I’m thinking of Paul’s words when he says, “The love of Christ compels me.” How much more satisfying it is to serve, to do, because your motivation is the love of Christ.

Christmas is just around the corner. Once again, we will be challenged to do for others. Ask yourself this question: “Why do I want to do this?” There is much greater joy and satisfaction because we want to than because we feel obligated to.

Your thoughts?

November 16

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Have you ever had those times when you were “satisfied”? I’m not speaking about “being content” as Paul talks about in Phil. 4:11-12.

In my mind this morning is the thought that there is a difference between being satisfied and being content. I’m not sure how well I can explain it, but let me try.

“Being content” is an attitude of the heart, a settledness with situations, circumstances, and the nuances of life. A resting in the soft arms of a Mighty God who give us all things. I see this in followers of Jesus who may not have much of what the world considers a “must have,” and yet there is a quiet contentedness that invades the spirit and exudes to others.

I hope that explains that.

Meanwhile, “being satisfied” has another flavor. I see that as meaning something different (at least in my other mind) in the sense of “all is good and going well.” For example, you realize one morning that all has been going well and smooth-job, home, relationships, health-and you rest, not in the strong arms of a Mighty God, but in your “peaceful” situation. Maybe not as drastic as the man Jesus talked about of “Eat, drink, and be merry” fame, but there is an uneasy sense of calm.

Why do I say this? I was thinking this morning how easy it is to get lulled into a lack of alertness, into complacency. We let our guard down. At this point, we become fodder-a target- for the enemy. There is a big zero on our forehead and centered in our heart. Are we not  warned of this in I Peter 5:8? He writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASB2020)

Simply put: being unaware, being “relaxed,” places us in great danger of the enemy. It puts us directly in his sights. Once we let our guard down we are fair game.

It is okay to be content. Be careful of being satisfied.

November 14

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Christianity is a religion of the past, present, and future. Truthfully, I don’t like that word “religion” at all. It sounds so cold and formal. I guess I could say that Christianity is a “faith” but I’m not sure that effectively captures what I want to say either.

But that is a moot point.

My point is that life in Christ has a past, a present, and a future. Let’s break that down for a moment.

Life in Christ has a present. It is a life knowing we are living in the presence and the power of Christ.  It is a John 15:5 life: “I am the vine…”

It is also a life in the future. The Christ-follower has the promise of eternal life. We have the promise that no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. We have the assurance of a home in heaven.

I left off the past on purpose. Many Christ-followers live too much in their past. Or maybe it would be more correct to say they live chained too much to their past. They can’t forgive themselves or forget past indiscretions so they have an issue believing God can do what we can’t. All I need to do at this point is to draw your attention to I Cor. 6:9-11. {Please take a moment to read it}. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 11: “And such were some of you.” Key thought. Then it is followed by a key word: “but.”

That verse makes it very clear something has taken place. You see, the proof of Christianity is in its power to change lives. Such is the strength of those words: “Such were some of you.” Every time you look at a Christ-follower, you are seeing evidence of the fact God changes lives. Mine. Yours. Others. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But made new. Shame? Gone. Sin? Gone. Regret? Gone. In God’s mind.  Now to mine.

Christianity is a “religion” of the past, present, and future. Saved from the past; living in the present; looking forward the hope of an eternal future in heaven.  Remember: “such were some of you.”

November 10

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

For several years I had the opportunity, the privilege, of taking part in a reading program called Real Men Read (RMR). RMR was sponsored by the United Way of Monroe County and they expanded it into Owen County. The RMR was designed for me to read to K classes so that these impressionable students, especially boys, might see that it is okay to read because a man is doing it. Many children of that age do not have good role models or influences, especially in the area of reading and education.  When I moved her in ’05, Owen County had the reputation of being the 2nd poorest county in Indiana (and I don’t need to tell you what kind of issues that raises).

The pandemic brought it to a halt…except I made an arrangement with the K teacher I had been connected to to keep reading to her class. We met outside when the weather was conducive. Fast forward to 2022. No RMR. Anywhere. It has been disbanded for whatever reason. My daughter, Tami, is now a K teacher in our local school district and so I talked with her about reading to her class.  The two other teachers in her school expressed an interest as well, so I read to their classes in October. I talked with another K teacher in the system to attends the church I pastor; she talked to her fellow teacher and she also talked with the two other K teachers in other schools. They were all on board with the program. With all of their cooperation, the RMR (which will have to be called by another name) has been reborn!

This week I read to two classes.  Next week I will read to the 3 classes again in Tami’s school. Someone else (our youth pastor, Ryan) is reading to the two classes in another school. All in all there is close to 160 K students in our school system.

All that explanation to say this: I have had a blast! I’ve tried to engage the kids as I read. They are eager. Giggly. Funny. Fidgety. Laugh easily. Yes, easily distracted. Take part in the story. And loving. I don’t leave class without a bunch of hugs. One class all came at the same time as one, then another, then the bunch wanted a hug. So I called for a group hug (ala Aladdin with Robin Williams).

It reminds me of what Jesus said about children: “Let the little children come to Me for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Such joy, innocence (shame on anyone destroying that), laughter, eagerness, giggliness (and yes my spell check is telling me that is not a word. Says who?) and sensitivity. All qualities I still need when I come to Jesus, to His Word, and to the throne.

How about you? Are you childlike? Not childish. 🙂  Childlike.

I will not be posting tomorrow since it is Friday, so I want to take a moment and remind you it is Veteran’s Day. I am thankful for the men and women who have served our country to keep us free so that we might enjoy the benefits of living in the greatest country in the world. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But still the best. Make sure you thank all the veterans, especially if you know of any.

November 1

Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

When people choose to serve God and make a difference, they often think it means doing something big. I can remember watching a movie many moons ago that was about a man who felt his call to follow God would involve something great or grand.  One example was that he dreamed of being a “Billy Graham type” evangelist.  He eventually found out that doing what God wanted sometimes is in the small things. (I think the movie was Kevin Can Wait but I’m not sure).

It is not unusual for us to feel that way. We equate big = successful. Not true.

Faithfully doing what God desires often means doing the small things well. “Faithful in little, faithful in much” is the way it goes.

Take a look at people in the Bible. David was a shepherd doing the shepherd-thing. When he was called he was doing the sheep thing. When he took down Goliath, he wasn’t seeking a big event. He was delivering cheese to his brothers as a messenger boy from his father. God found Gideon threshing grain in hiding out of fear of the Midianites. Elisha was plowing a field. Moses was tending sheep and minding his own business.

They were faithfully doing what they were supposed to be doing. Everyday mundane tasks. Just like us. Don’t wait around for some grand calling from God to go do something popular or great. That’s not saying you won’t.   But it is far more likely you and I will make a difference just by being available to God, by being faithful in our everyday life.

Faithful in little, faithful in much.  Don’t wait around for some grand action or calling. GO. DO. Let God deal with the results.

October 31

Monday, October 31st, 2022

Have you ever noticed how some people hide well? Some do it on purpose. They don’t want to be seen. Anonymous is the best way.  There is both good and bad in that.

There are also those who like to labor behind the scenes. Unseen by many, each week they do “their thing.” Teach children. Work in a nursery. Safety and security. Work the sound board. Do Power Point. Clean up afterwards. Collect garbage. The list could go on.

They like it that way. They want it that way. Praise and accolades is not why they do what they do.

Just before kickoff at Super Bowl XLIII, Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award-a tribute to the player who had best combined on-field excellence with off-field community service. It represents a commitment to giving and sacrificing to others.

Paying homage to those who serve is not a new concept. It isn’t that they clamor for it. A servant doesn’t do that. One who serves does just that: serves. Jesus once said, “I came not be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” He becomes the example the servant follows.

But every once in a while it is nice to be “seen” and recognized. Have you taken the time to let a volunteer know how much you appreciate what they have done?  If not, take the time today to drop them a note, text them, call them, or take them out to eat as a treat and a thank you.

You will be glad you did.

October 27

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

Last night during my 66 class (66 books of the Bible), we were studying Ezra. I know what some are thinking. “Ezra! OT! B-O-R-I-N-G!”  Among all the adjectives one might use to describe Ezra, boring is not one of them.

Let me give you a brief background: The kingdom split after Solomon’s death-10 northern tribes (known as Israel) and 2 southern tribes (known as Judah). The 10 northern tribes went first, taken captive by Assyria. 130 years later Judah was captured by and exiled to Babylon (a small remnant was left behind, but Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple a charred ruin). Babylon was eventually overtaken by the Medes-Persian army, led by Cyrus, the king. Cyrus, in his first year as king, signed an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They went in three waves. Ezra was in the second.

Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron’s line. Tradition tells us Ezra was a devout man of God who loved the Word of God and was considered one of the best instructors.

He took his responsibility seriously. While the people were rebuilding Jerusalem, Ezra was helping rebuild lives (7:6). Ezra called for a fast for God’s protection as they traveled. After he arrived in Jerusalem, he saw the terrible state of the people, especially in the area of mixed marriages (heathen and Jew not black and white), and laid himself out before the Lord in mourning and repentance (9:5-6). Ezra led the people in reconciliation with God by calling out their sin and “demanding” confession of sin! BTW: names are even listed in 10:18-44. WOW!

One thing I appreciate about Ezra was his inclusion. Like Isaiah (Is. 6) and David (Ps.51) and others, he included himself in the sinfulness of the people. Even though he was not guilty of marrying foreign wives, Ezra took ownership of his sin instead of pointing fingers.

May I be that honest and forthcoming of my own sin. And may I be a godly pastor/man who sees his responsibility to shepherd the people and be diligent in it.

What about you? How do you approach God? High and mighty or with humility and repentance?

October 26

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

Several times over the past week I have had the occasion to speak to someone about the “I plant; you water; God gives the increase” idea of sharing our faith.

You know how that goes. “I have prayed and prayed. I have tried sharing my faith kindly when the opportunity arise, but still, no response.”

Or “I pray daily for my child to come to Christ or to recommit his/her life to Jesus, but it seems like my prayers go unanswered.”

Those are tough to hear. They are tough to witness in one’s life. They are tough ones not to give Christian platitudes to. But the words which could be said (and are) are not mere pablum or empty words.

When I have those times in my life, I cling to Paul’s words in I Cor. 3:6- “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” (NLT) 

It is not my responsibility to convert anyone. That is God’s. My responsibility is to share the message…to pray…to love. Most often, any change, any conversion, any re-commitment is the work of many. No one person has the right to say, “I did it.” It was a team effort.

The other principle is that we are called to be faithful. Plant the seed. Nurture the seed. That’s it. Be available. Don’t stress or fret over the results. A farmer know the crop will come in due time.

In God’s time.

October 25

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022

Have you ever heard of Thomas Barnado? No? Well, I think it is time you did.

Thomas Barnado entered the London Hospital medical School in 1865, dreaming of life as a medical missionary in China. Barnado soon discovered a desperate need in his own front yard-the many homeless children living and dying in the streets of London. Barnado determined to do something about this horrendous situation. Developing homes for destitute children in London’s east end, Barnado rescued some 60,000 boys and girls from poverty and possible death. Theologian and pastor John Stott said, “Today we might call him the patron saint of street kids.”

Barnado is obviously an example of someone who put feet to his faith.

But what gets to me even more is who the recipients of his faith in action were. Children.  He became a person of refuge, one who sets up place of refuge for children.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote, “Friendship is a sheltering tree.” I spent time yesterday with a friend. We rode 17 miles on our bikes, mostly talking. (As Jo would say, “Imagine that.”)  He was gracious to slow down his pace for this old man (he is 47…I am not). 🙂 And then when a hill loomed in front of us we went for a short bit then he graciously turned around when I told him I’d had enough.  There is still a definite lack of strength after the back surgery. Maybe another day, another time, but yesterday was not that day or that time. 🙂  I told him it was the fist time, except when I rode with him a little over a month ago, that I have ridden with another person is easily two years.

I miss the friendship. It has continued but distance prevents a more constant contact. I miss the conversation. I miss the camaraderie.  He’s doing well in many areas of his life. Other than excelling in his walk with Jesus, he is really doing super at being a sheltering tree.

How about you? Are you someone’s sheltering tree?

October 24

Monday, October 24th, 2022

I read a quote from Corrie Ten Boom and it “spoke” to me this morning:

Look without and be distressed. Look within and be depressed. Look at Jesus and be at rest.

Let’s take that apart for a moment.

“Look without and be distressed.” Ain’t that the truth!! I’d tell you to read or watch the news, but that could put in you into distress. 🙂 It seems as if our country and our world is getting more and more lawless each day. It is distressing.

“Look within and be depressed.”  So many voices today tell us, “Be empowered within.” “You have it within you to change your world.” That is a dead end. Broken people can’t fix things. They need fixed first and there is only One who can do that.

“Look at Jesus and be at rest.” Jesus promised His peace to all who come to Him. He said, “Take my yoke upon you and I will give you rest.” Jesus is the Rock. He is the One who offers stability. He is the One who walks with us no matter what storms rage on the outside or inside.

Corrie gave us some good advice. Keep your focus on Jesus.