Monday, September 27, 2010

what they're really saying

As a pastor, I get all kinds of comments, suggestions, gentle criticisms, and hidden meaning conversations from people in my church, those from other churches and from some in the community (I might add that the encouragements waaaaaaaaay outweigh the criticisms and keep me going in ministry) and over 25 years of ministry I learned to interpret these conversations. So below i offer a few phrases and what i know they actually mean:
1. "In the my church in .... they used to..." - They are getting ready to tell you something that they think you need to do for your church, because where they were from was so much better.
2. "I've prayed about this a lot" - I'm saying this as a way of saying that what I'm getting ready to tell you is of the Lord and there is no way that you can refute it.
3. "You're preaching is so much deeper these days." - Translation: you were a really lousy preacher a few months ago. (Note: this is related to "That was the the best sermon you've ever preached" to say it's so rare that I noticed).
4. "I'd like to take you to lunch and pick your brain about some stuff" - In reality, I'm going to take you to a public location and give you some ministry tips that you should start applying immediately.
5. "That was a really interesting point you made" - Which means they completely disagree with what you said and are afraid to tell you.
6. "Have you ever read... you should really read it" - This author can set your theology straight in a way that is much more eloquent than I can.
7. "Aren't you putting on weight?" - This is honest and oh, so true and it really hurts my feelings.

PLEASE DON'T TAKE THIS BLOG TOO SERIOUSLY, I'M ONLY HAVING FUN. Translation: I want to state my opinion in a sarcastic way and not get anyone too stirred up about it and I think that a smily face at the end will make all the difference :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010


I know, it's a big church word for a Monday, but my morning devotions led me to Psalm 51 and the great repentance song of King David after his incredibly large and public sins of adultery and then murder to cover it up. And then he repented (this means literally to change your mind/turn around) in grand style.

You know, I don't repent as much as I about you? I mean I talk to God a lot, but honestly don't spend as much time as I need to dealing with the sins in my life and getting right before God. So...I practiced today...repenting...and then challenged my staff to practice....together in our weekly prayer time. It was cool (as in uncomfortable - there's nothing more difficult for a bunch of pastors to admit that they are sinners in front of other pastors they often try and impress...but some dared to be vulnerable and then everyone was - I think we actually bore one another's burdens today - but that's not my point). I want to challenge you to truly learn how to repent - just follow David's lead (read the following with your Bible open to Psalm 51).
1. Seek God's mercy! Realize that God hates sin (I mean really hates it) and you are approaching Him seeking him to act in a way you don't deserve. If you take this lightly you aren't repenting - God have mercy.
2. Own your sin. "I know my transgressions are always before me". A repent prayer is not, "Lord forgive all my sins, help me change." That's too anemic. Own what you do that is wrong in God's eyes: lust, selfishness, laziness, gluttony, drunkeness, prayerlessness, gossip, etc.... Own the sin you are repenting of by being specific. If you don't articulate what it is, you are not being honest with yourself.
3. Realize who you have offended. "against you and you only have I sinned" - the offended party in all of our sins is only God. It hurts him deeply. Understand that the sin you own has hurt the heart of with that - and confess it.
4. Ask Him to change you..."search me, cleanse me, create in me a pure heart". There is no confession of sin that God accepts unless you really want to be changed/made different. And He is the only one who can do that (see I John 1:9).
5. Ask Him to use the grace and forgiveness you receive from Him to proclaim his goodness to others. The goal of grace is for you to tell others who need to repent that God forgives and so we "lead the multitudes in the assembly".
6. Change inside, not outside (the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and contrite heart). There is no faking out God. He sees the real you, so when you repent, don't put on some big show, just bring your broken heart before God. it's like a bull on the altar to Him.

So there you have it for a tame Monday blog...go ahead Repent...I dare ya.

Monday, September 13, 2010

prayer triggers

Sara and I were visiting a small group this last Wednesday and during the "questions for the pastor" time that I usually encourage someone asked me to describe my prayer life. This is a great and difficult question to answer. Not difficult becasue I don't have plenty to share, but difficult in describing this on-going God conversation that I work at maintaining. It's like asking me how I love my wife. I hardly know where to begin - I could talk for hours (about Sara and prayer).

So I talked about my private prayer room attached to my church office that I've fixed up like a little chapel and the years of prayer journaling that I've done and how I try to begin a conversation with God and hold that awareness with him all day, and how I have many prayer books of prayers that I like to read, etc... Bottom line, I pray a lot and I am learning to pray all the time. But there was part of this prayer journey that I think is very helpful (especially for ADD personalities like myself). I constantly use visual or experiential triggers to pray. Here are some and what I pray when I see them...most are adaptations of Scriptures:

When I see the sun set or rise I say, "from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord shall be praised"

When I brush my teeth (and tongue) I pray, "may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight oh Lord."

When I notice how hard I'm breathing during a long run I pray, "Jesus take me home now" Just kidding, I pray, "As a deer pants for water so my soul pants for the living God"

When I see a bottle of wine, I pray "Thank you Lord for you shed blood for me on the cross and the communion of sitting at your table"

When I put on shoes, I pray "may my feet be fitted with the gospel of peace" or "how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" and I ask for God to take me to places of good news.

I also have business cards with staff, elders and small group names on them and I use them to pray throughout the day.

When I get an e-mail the first thing I do is say a simple prayer for the person sending the message

When I watch cars file into church on Sunday mornings I pray for each family to be filled and blessed.

When my two boys were young we all carried crosses in our pockets and prayed for each other as we felt them during the day.

Well, I could go on, but part of my prayer life is simply finding every day things in my world that trigger my heart and mind toward Jesus. Are there any you'd like to share?

Monday, September 6, 2010

laboring through the day

My first sensory experience of the day was the smell of coffee as my awesome wife brought a steaming mug to my bedside. Good to have a day for doing everything and nothing.

I made a strong commitment to stay in pajamas until ten (hey you gotta make a statement on your day off and yes I wear pajama bottoms with a t-shirt). So I staggered (still half asleep) to the door and read the morning paper with coffee in hand. After that I went to the Word and spent some time in Galatians 1&2 just reading and reflecting. We had some friends coming over so I made my way to the kitchen to help Sara make breakfast. She makes the most awesome home-made biscuits and I made the sausage gravy. Fun to hang out with my wife just talking and sharing in the task. Breakfast was filled with laughter and good food.

Of course after cleaning up...I felt guilty for eating so much so I went for a run on the trail. Really love the cooler and less humid weather for runnning these days! After the run, I read some, napped some, did some minor chores and alternately worked on my annual report to the elders and watched baseball, golf and football.

It's really weird being an empty nester now that Caleb is gone to school. Good things include: not having to straighten up the basement, lower grocery bill, not waking up when they come in late (past 9:30 p.m. is late for me these days:-), time to focus on whatever i need to do in the evening, and not coordinating the car usage. Bummers include: missing Caleb's personality and presence in our house, watching sports without him, one less vehicle to coordinate usage of, worrying about his safety when he's not around. So all in all, a good and bummer day of rest and adjusting to this whole new stage of life.

I am really excited about the Fall kick-off this weekend at church. The kidsview team is doing a blowout event that will be off the chain (street cred points for me:-) and the other ministries will also be in store for lots of visitors and people back from the holiday weekend. Hope we have tons of people to pray for God to move in a big way this Wednesday night at church 6:00 p.m.

Our small group is going and then coming over to our house for dessert afterwards - my favorites - friends and sugar. Well, better wrap this up...more writing/football watching to do.