The Consultation

consult_3

In the United Methodist Church, there is a structure. The structure begins, and is built upon, the local church. A group of local churches (I THINK the average number for us is 50-70 churches…maybe!) make up a District. A group of Districts (in our case that number is 10…I’m sure!) make up a Conference. (Ours is the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.) A group of Conferences make up a Jurisdiction and a group of Jurisdictions make up…the denomination! Each Conference is shepherded by a Bishop. All of the Bishops together make up the Council of Bishops. And while there IS a President of the Council of Bishops, there is no position akin to “Pope” in our denomination.

If you back that structure up a few steps, you get back to District. Each District has a District Superintendent- D.S. for short. They are clergy who are moved out of the local church into this position. They are “the pastor to the pastors”- responsible for all of the pastors in their District. All of the D.S.’s together, along with a few other folks and the Bishop, make up The Cabinet. One of the many things The Cabinet is responsible for is which pastor serves which church. And with somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 pastors and 900 churches, that must be a daunting task!

Part of the process for the D.S.’s is to meet yearly with each of the pastors in their District. We refer to that as…The Consultation. In anticipation of…The Consultation…the pastor fills out a multi-page self-evaluation. It asks very specific questions about things like your leadership and your spiritual life. It also asks why you should or shouldn’t be moved from the church you currently serve. The very last thing before you sign asks specifically if you are requesting to be moved or to stay. In the end, how you respond to that question is one of MANY things they take into account when “appointment season” comes around.

My annual Consultation was yesterday. My current D.S. is an old friend. We served in the same District, and in some of the same ministries, when I first started. He is truly one of the finest pulpit preachers I have ever seen. And now he is the closest thing I have to…a boss! (Actually, and the end of the day, every clergy member answers to the Bishop and, above him or her…God!)

His office is in a community that is about 45 minutes away from where I live. So about 9:30 yesterday morning, I got in the car and took off, arriving at his office about 5 minutes prior to my appointment. (I got stopped by both a train AND road construction!) He was ready for me so I went right in!

We spent the next hour having a great conversation. We talked about what great leadership there is among the laity of the church I currently serve. We talked about how much the church has grown. (Our average weekly attendance is up a full 15% over this point last year while our Christian Education average weekly attendance is up 25%!) We talked about where the church IS and where we are GOING. And we talked about the fact that I have NO desire to move to a new church. (Did I mention NO desire?!)

Statistics are clear that the ONE thing growing churches have in common, across the board, is longer clergy tenures. And it makes sense. It takes some time for a pastor and a congregation to figure each other out. It’s not uncommon that it is 2-3 years before the relationship is such that they can really start working together in tangible ways to help facilitate growth.

Does a longer tenure guarantee a growing church? Nope. Does a short tenure guarantee a church can’t grow? Nope. But to provide the best opportunity for growth, put the right pastor with the right congregation…and let them do God’s stuff! And I, for one, think that’s what’s happening here!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Lock the Door!

Country Boy/City Boy

country city

I was talking to a church member this morning and, in the context of the conversation, he mentioned hedge apples. If that term makes you scrunch your forehead and say, “Huh?” then I’m going to guess you didn’t grow up in the country!

Hedge trees are often used as “natural” fence lines and boundaries in farming country. And when cut down and shaped properly, they make GREAT fence posts- they are as hard as steel and last forever! And the “fruit” of the hedge tree is…the hedge apple! We also called them “hedge balls”. They are about the size of a softball. They’re green and ooze “milk” that is about the stickiest stuff ever!

There are lots of things…LOTS of things…about growing up in the country that are radically different from growing up “in town”. Hedge apples are just the tip of the iceberg! Every fall, we would get gunny sacks and spend hours dragging them through “empty” cornfields. (We DID have the permission of the farmer who owned the land!) The combine doesn’t get all the corn out of a field. It’s get MOST of it, but not all. And so we would drag these gunny sacks through the fields, picking up the leftover ears of corn. Once we had picked the field clean, we would haul the now-full gunny sacks back home and use the corn to help feed the horse during the winter.

Regarding trash, we had not one, not two but THREE trash cans in the kitchen. One trash can was for anything that was “food residue”- potato peels, egg shells, apple cores…whatever. That trash went down to the barn and was fed to the chickens. The second trash can was for any trash that could burn. And yes- we would burn it. (Hey- don’t judge me! It was a different time and place!) The third trash can was for…anything else. It didn’t burn and the chickens wouldn’t eat it. Those trash went into a ravine way back on the back edge of the property- to slow down the erosion that was happening. (Again- different time and place!) So I didn’t even know what a “garbage man” WAS until I got older!

We had a garden that was A. huge and B. incredibly diverse. There were few vegetables or fruits that couldn’t be found in our garden. And if we didn’t eat it fresh, we canned it or froze it and ate it all winter long. We didn’t buy fruit or vegetables- we picked them. We didn’t buy egs- we gathered them. For a long time, we didn’t buy things like potato chips…because my mom thought they were evil!

We put a snow fence up in the yard because there was nothing to break the wind. We had to have a small tractor to mow the lawn and plow the snow. Every so often, we had to dig down to the top of the well because the pump had gone out or down to the top of the septic tank because it was full. It seemed like ANY time that digging came up…it was the dead of winter and the ground was frozen!! I spent SEVERAL summers making ALL of my money from picking up hay!

I lived out in the country from the day I was born until the day I went away to college. I have lived “in town” ever since. (For those of you keeping score at home, that would be 54 minus 18 equals 36…years!!) I am, in the grand scheme of things, a “city boy”. But I am reminded often enough that, while I am at most a “city boy”, I am still…at heart…a “country boy”! And I guess, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Consultation

Healing Rain: Possession

Healing Rain Possession     A pastor and a lawyer are seated next to each other on a flight from LA to NY. The lawyer asks if he would like to play a fun game? The pastor, tired, just wants to take a nap, politely declines, and rolls over to the window to catch a few winks.
The lawyer persists and explains that the game is easy and a lot of fun. He explains, “I ask you a question, and if you don’t know the answer, you pay me $5, and vise versa.” Again, the pastor declines and tries to get some sleep. The lawyer, now agitated, says, “Okay, if you don’t know the answer you pay me $5, and if I don’t know the answer, I will pay you $500.” This catches the pastor’s attention and, figuring there will be no end to this torment unless he plays, agrees to the game. The lawyer asks the first question. “What’s the distance from the earth to the moon?” The pastor doesn’t say a word, reaches into his wallet, pulls out a $5 bill and hands it to the lawyer. “Okay”, says the lawyer, “your turn.” The pastor asks the lawyer, “What goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four legs?”
The lawyer, puzzled, takes out his laptop computer and searches all his references, but…no answer. Frustrated, he sends e-mails to all his friends and coworkers, but to no avail. After an hour, he finally wakes the preacher up, and hands him $500. The pastor says, “Thank you”, and turns back to get some more sleep. The lawyer, who is more than a little miffed, wakes the pastor and asks, “Well, what’s the answer?”
Without a word, the pastor reaches into his wallet, hands the lawyer $5, and goes back to sleep.
Tonight, we continue our current 5-week sermon series (that will take us 6 weeks to complete, due to Vacation Bible School!) called Healing Rain. There are LOTS of examples of healing in the Bible, but what does the word “healing” REALLY mean? This series looks at 5 different types of healing as found in the Gospels and how they can impact our lives. Each week will feature a time of opening up the altar for prayer and healing.
The first week, we started with one of the most common forms of healing found in the Gospels- healing from illness or disease. Week two, we look at being unable to move- healing from immobility. Last week, we turned to a lack of vision- literally and figuratively- as we talked about healing from blindness. Tonight, we near the end of this series as we step deeper into the realm of healing and look at (Click)
healing from possession.
Matthew 17:14-21 At the bottom of the mountain, they were met by a crowd of waiting people. As they approached, a man came out of the crowd and fell to his knees begging, “Master, have mercy on my son. He goes out of his mind and suffers terribly, falling into seizures. Frequently he is pitched into the fire, other times into the river. I brought him to your disciples, but they could do nothing for him.” Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.” He ordered the afflicting demon out– and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well. When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?” “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”
In all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), this particular healing is placed immediately after Jesus and the “Big 3”- Peter, John and James- come down from the mountains after the Transfiguration. Most Bible scholars think the Gospel of Mark was the first one written and that Matthew and Luke both used it as one of their main sources. But Matthew’s version of this healing story is much shorter than Mark’s, leading some to think that Matthew used a different source for this story.
But regardless of where Matthew got this story, we have an interesting dichotomy. We have JUST left the glory and the wonder of the Transfiguration. Peter, John and James have just seen Jesus changed…right before their very eyes- whatever “very eyes” are! They have seen two of the heaviest hitters of the Old Testament- Moses and Elijah…the Law and the Prophets. It simply couldn’t get a whole lot better than that! And then…here we are…immediately…back down “on the plain”. And the shine is already off the apple! The rest of the disciples are so jaded that they can do…NOTHING for the son in this story. Nothing.
Jesus and the 3 disciples come down the off the mountain and there is a crowd waiting. As they draw near to the crowd, a man breaks free from the group, comes to Jesus and drops to his knees before Him. When someone drops to their knees before Jesus, it is usually in worship. But interestingly, the Greek word used here doesn’t translate that way. Instead, it suggests humbleness and a sense of request. He came to Jesus not to worship Him but because he needed something- healing. Not for him, but for his son.
The version of this story found in the Gospel of Mark uses the word seleniazomai (sel-ay-nee-ad‘-zom-ahee), which literally means “is an epileptic”, to describe the son. But unlike epilepsy as we understand it, here the word is associated with demon possession. The son has seizures. He falls into the fire and the river. This is serious stuff.
The dad had obviously already tried to get help from the 9 disciples who were left behind- he drew the big goose egg from them. Sadly, the disciples’ failures are a recurring theme. Ultimately, it’s a reminder that their power to heal, to perform miracles, wasn’t their own but was entirely dependent upon their walk with Jesus.
And you have to just LOVE Jesus’ response to the situation. “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?” This is pure frustration. And this is arguably the most HUMAN Jesus gets in the Gospels. “You have GOT to be kidding me?! Good golly- I am just climbing the sheer rock face of Stupid Mountain here, aren’t I!” The disciples’ continuing unbelief is actually painful to Him.
I picture Jesus shaking His head, taking a big, deep cleansing breathe and then saying, “Bring the boy here.” Have you ever tried to teach someone to do something and they just couldn’t get it? Finally, you wave your arm in frustration and say, “Move! I’ll just do it myself!” That’s kind of where Jesus was- “Bring the boy here. I got this. If you want something done right, do it Yourself!” He orders the demon out…and it is done. Period. Easy, peasy, one, two, threesy!
Notice what the disciples did the SECOND they get Jesus alone. “How come WE couldn’t do that?” Again, I picture Jesus shaking His head as He says, “Because you’re still not taking God seriously.” And then, to add insult to injury, He goes on, “The simple truth is that if you had the tiniest kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you could tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would. There’s nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle…IF you truly believed.”
Notice this- Jesus ISN’T talking about the SIZE of their faith. Instead, He’s talking about the poverty of their faith. Little faith can still be effective. Poor faith, on quite the other hand, is ineffective. The disciples HAD faith: they honestly thought they would be able to exorcise the demon. They had done it before and now they are surprised by their failure. But at this point in the story, their faith is poor. We don’t need giant faith- we just need TRUE faith- faith that expects God will work.

The Bus is Dead! Long Live the Bus!

viking funeral    In 2009, a full three years before I arrived at the church I currently serve, they bought a bus. Now, before you start picturing The ubiquitous “old school bus painted to look like a patchwork quilt on acid” Partridge family-esque bus…uh uh! They bought a 15-passenger bus with a wheelchair lift and the ability to lock down up to 5 wheelchairs. If you have seen the “shuttles” that hospitals and hotels often have…you’re in the right neck of the woods!

The bus was a used model- complete with a decent amount of both miles and years. They got a pretty good deal on it. The idea was to use it for about 3 years- to see if it was a viable ministry for this church.Two things have proven true since then- the bus lasted longer than the three years and it has proven to be a GREAT ministry!

The church has been working on a Capital Campaign. (If you are not a regular “church person”, that means “trying to raise somewhere between a decent amount and a LOT of money for…whatever”!) And that still-being-designed Capital Campaign has had a new bus as a “core” piece of the greater puzzle. But we are simply not ready to roll that Capital Campaign out.

However, the bus had other thoughts! A couple of weeks ago, the bus wa taken in for its annual inspection. It…failed. The years of being on the road in the Midwest have taken their toll. The rust issues have become so substantial that the guy doing the inspection simply couldn’t renew the sticker.

So we suddenly found ourselves in need of a new bus. And that has caused us to scramble to institute a short-term, all-cash campaign, designed to raise every penny we need to purchase a new bus. We are now a grand, whopping total of 8 days into the campaign and have raised a substantial percentage of the total already.

When will we make our goal? I don’t know? WILL we make our goal? You bet! Will we make sure that the folks who depend on the bus will still have a way…some way…to get to church? Yep! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that this church didn’t even flinch at the thought of buying a bus. There wasn’t a long, drawn-out discussion…argument…over whether we could afford it or if it was worthwhile. Instead, the overarching theme has been, “How can we make this work?”

So, the old bus is dead. (My  younger son suggested a Viking funeral as a fundraiser. We drive the old bus to the Mississippi River, load it on a barge, set it on fire, push it out into the current and sell tickets to watch! I don’t think the church trustees will buy into that approach!) The new bus is in the works. So, in a “replacing the expired monarch in medieval England” sort of way- the bus is dead…long live the bus!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again and stick with Jesus!

   Tomorrow- Healing Rain: Possession

The Safety Fair!

SAFETY FAIR  (RED SIREN)

There is a banner that hangs in the sanctuary of the church I currently serve. It says, “We exist to connect people with Jesus Christ”. Simple. Easy. Direct. To the point. It is our Mission Statement. It is the litmus test by which we measure everything we do at the church. Everything.

What that means is that not everything that is proposed at the church…happens. Why? Because there are LOTS of really good things that we COULD do, but not all of them connect people to Jesus Christ. And if we do things that don’t connect people to Jesus Christ, then we are simply a social club or organization. And while there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with those groups- that is not what the church is called to be.

This past Saturday, we had an opportunity to roll out an new event. We called it…The Safety Fair. It was from 10:30AM-1:30PM. It was at the church- outside the church, to be exact. We got a permit from the city to close the street. We had an ambulance with 2 EMTs. We had a Hook and Ladder-type fire truck, complete with a fireman who also happens to be a church member. We had two County Sheriff’s Deputies, who were- among other things- offering fingerprinting for kids. We had the County Search and Rescue Team- again with church members representing the group. We had the County Health Department offering blood pressure checks. We had people grilling burgers and hot dogs, making baked beans and other “sides” and offering a FREE lunch to anybody who wanted to eat. And as kids went from station to station, they got a card punch. When the card was full, they got a prize. AND…there were “door prizes”. And the cost of the event? Like the lunch- FREE!

It was decided that, this first year, we would focus on the kids who are connected to our church. Anybody else who wanted to come was MORE than welcome, but our “target market” was our folks. It was an attempt to not reach too far too fast. So a WHOLE lot of planning and preparation went into the day. And then..it was here!

It threatened rain for the first 2 hours…but it never did. Then, the last hour, the sun came out

and the humidity, which was already high, took off! All i all, however the weather was not bad at all for late July in Illinois.

The attendance at the event was rather light. there weren’t a ton of kids. BUT…the kids who came had a great time and experienced the love of Jesus! I think the adults who made the event happen felt like they were doing God’s work, as well. We also had the opportunity, through this event, to connect with a family who hasn’t been to the church yet. They were very interested in what we had to offer and I hope to see them walking in the building soon!

I heard someone lament the fact that “the event wasn’t a success” because not a lot of people came. And if you read this space regularly and/or have had me as your pastor, you know that I am more than a bit of a :numbers” guy. But the truth of the matter is that not everything can be measured simply by how many people came. This event brought SEVERAL adults together, united in an effort to connect people to Jesus Christ. It brought a decent amount of kids to the church to experience the love of Christ as shown by those adults. Was this event a success? You bet! I can’t wait for the 2nd Annual Safety Fair!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Bus Is Dead- Long Live the Bus!

How Do I Pray? The Prayer of Worship

How Do I Pray Prayer of Worship

There were two men shipwrecked on this island. Immediately, one of them started screaming and yelling. “We’re going to die! We’re going to die! There’s no food! No water! We’re going to die!” The second man simply propped himself up against a palm tree and acted as if there was nothing wrong. It drove the first man crazy. “Don’t you understand?!” We’re going to die!!” the first man said. The second man said, “No, YOU don’t understand. I make $100,000 a week.” The first man was dumbfounded, “What difference does THAT make? We’re on an island with no food and no water! We’re going to die!!!” The second man answered, “You’re not getting the big picture. I make $100,000 a week….AND I tithe. My pastor WILL find me!”
Psalm 95:1-3 Come, let’s shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock Who saved us! Let’s march into His presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns! And why? Because God is the best, High King over all the gods.
This morning, we continue our current sermon series- How Do I Pray? Each week, we focus on either a particular type of prayer of aspect of prayer. Week One, we looked at The Prayer of Faith. Week two, we focused on the great power of The Prayer of Agreement- also known as Corporate Prayer. Week three, we considered another important aspect of prayer as we talked about The Prayer of Request. Last week, we continued by looking at an important part of our faith journey as we considered The Prayer of Thanksgiving. Today, we near the end of this journey as we look at The Prayer of Worship.
Oxymorons are fascinating things. Dictionary.com says oxymoron means “a figure of speech which produces a seemingly self-contradictory effect”. It’s a phrase that seems to say two opposing things at the same time. In fact, the word itself is contradictory. It comes from two Latin words- “oxus” which means sharp and “moros” which means dull.      Here are some examples:
Jumbo shrimp
Sorta pregnant
Awful good
original copy
noticeably absent
alone together
bitter sweet
crash landing
pretty ugly
working vacation
Kinda dead
Freezer burn
Plastic silverware
devout atheist
congressional ethics
I want to offer up another phrase that you may or may not agree is oxymoronic- boring worship. A little boy asked his mom if she could remember the highest number she ever counted to. His mom thought about it but admitted that she didn’t really know. She said, “Why? Do YOU know?” He said, “I sure do- 5,372.” His mom was a bit puzzled and asked him why in the world he stopped at that particular number. The boy shrugged and responded, “Well…church was over.”
     Romans 12:1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
If you ask a 100 people why they don’t go to church, a decent amount of them will say that church is just too boring. And I must confess…I get that! I can remember when the minister had as three-point sermon…every week. I couldn’t WAIT for “thirdly and lastly”! And you find yourself looking at the bulletin, “OK, the sermon, offering, a couple of songs, a prayer…and I’m outta here!”
But I want to challenge that notion. True worship is anything but boring. The very essence of what worship is shouldn’t even give us room to be bored. Think about it- when we worship,we are coming before God- the Creator of the heavens and the earth- with praise and thanksgiving. How can we KEEP from breaking out in spirited worship?!
So what is worship? Well, to worship means to “pay homage to, to render reverence to”. It means to fall to your knees, sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally, and sing praise to your Creator. The word “worship” appears somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 times in the Bible. Worship is when we recognize our place before God and acknowledge His position above us.
Why should we worship? Because God saved us. Because of His greatness and His power. Because of His splendor, majesty, strength, and love. Because of what He has done for us. We worship not just because of the past or the present but also because we know what’s coming. Worship should lead us to a response. If we aren’t responding to worship, then we run the risk of it all simply becoming rote and boring.
There are 4 things that true worship should cause us to do- 4 things that are a natural outcropping of our worship.
1. Praise His name. Psalm 96 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise His name.” There has been singing and praising God as long as there have been people. We’re called to sing to the Lord a new song- a song of praise and worship. Why NEW songs? Well, imagine you tune into the evening news…only to find them reporting on events that happened a month ago! We so easily want to stick with reading the “old news” in our spiritual lives. WE don’t experience fresh Word from God because we’re content to live on the fumes of what once as. It was the great reformer Martin Luther who said, “Christ is now as fresh to me as if He had shed His blood but this very hour.” When we are open to new ways of encountering and experiencing God, we can’t help but break out into joyful…and new…praise and worship.
2.­ Further His kingdom. Sounds great…but how does it happen? It happens when we share His message of love and salvation- day in and day out. It happens when we tell people about the miraculous things He has done in our lives. Our message is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our method is to share that Good News daily. Our mandate is to share it with…everybody. A very talented clergy friend of mine says that we only have ONE message. That’s IT- ONE! And the ONE message is that Jesus saves. But WHAT a message! Your friends need to hear it. Your family needs to hear it. The WORLD needs to hear it!
We should want to further His kingdom because of what He’s done in our lives.
When you develop a true relationship with Jesus- one of the benefits of worship- you should want to tell people about it. When you’re full of His presence, you can’t help but want to share it. And we’re not just called to share it with our family and friends. Our Community. Our state. Even our nation. We’re called to be world-wide Christians, sharing Him with everybody.
3. Tell of His importance. As we praise His name and further His kingdom, we will automatically be drawn into telling others of His importance. Our God is not a “lower case g” god. He is THE God. Christianity is the ONLY religion that worships a living God instead of a dead idol. We all reach out to something greater than us, but Christianity is the only religion where God…reaches back.
Singers, musicians, actors, authors, athletes- we absolutely love to applaud the attributes of others. But this psalm reminds us that it is God, above all others, Who is worthy of such adoration. When we surrender ourselves to Him, we are telling the world that that He is worthy. When we surrender ourselves to Him, we want to give our whole selves, everything we are and everything we have, to Him.
4. Expect His return. Jesus came…and He is coming again. He makes that clear in the New Testament. And that fact should cause us to break out in joyful praise. Let the heavens rejoice. Let the earth be glad. , the sea will resound, the fields ­ the corn and soybeans — will be jubilant, and all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.
When the first Adam and his bride sinned, all of Creation was knocked off kilter. But when the second Adam…Jesus…returns, all of Creation will be put back in sync. In the meantime, we’re called to do two things- wait…and worship. Jesus is coming again. And that fact has obvious implications on how we praise His name, how we further His kingdom and how we tell of His importance.
Hebrews 12:28 Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander.
I have a challenge for you this morning- 3 things I’m encouraging you to do between now and Labor Day.
1. Read a Psalm every day. If you start today and end on Labor Day, you will have read 44 Psalms. There are 150, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Just this challenge…all by itself….will increase your passion for worship.
2. Listen to at least one Christian song every day. I don’t care if it’s a classic hymn played on an organ and sung by a 100-member choir, a good ‘ol Gaither-type song, complete with banjo or a contemporary Christian song accompanied by electric guitar and drums. Makes no difference. But listen to at least one…every day.
3. Pray for 5 people for 5 minutes every day. Make it a different 5 people every day. And as you pray, look for opportunities to serve. What is God calling you to do while you pray?
We talked about oxymorons earlier. I focused on the fact that, for me, boring worship is an oxymoron. I think a related oxymoron is bored believer. If you truly embrace what being a believer is all about, it should be next to impossible to be bored. If you are praising, sharing, telling and expecting, you should also be fired up- full of expectant joy as you partner with God to carry out His kingdom work. So don’ be content with sitting on the premises when you could instead be standing on the promises!

It’s Raining Produce!

produce

Last night for dinner, I made “sliders”- ham, turkey and cheese on small “dollar rolls”. They go into a 9 X 13 and they are “bathed” in a mix of melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, honey and garlic. Thy are then baked for 30 minutes at 350. They are then…delicious! Along with the sliders, I served baked potatoes, fresh sweet corn on the cob and steamed swiss chard.

You might be asking, “So what, Pastor? I had pizza. Big whoop!” The great thing about last night’s dinner was that the sweet corn and the swiss chard were given to us by parishioners with big gardens and bigger hearts! The night before, dinner included au gratin zucchini. And yes…the zucchini was given to us by a parishioner. Tonight, dinner will include fresh green beans. Yep- given to us!

At the last church I served, when corn was in season, a gentleman from that church would pull up in our driveway on Saturday morning…EVERY Saturday morning…with a gunny sack full of corn, And oh MY was it good corn. The reason I even know about the swiss chard we ate last night was because of an elderly woman at that last church who would bring us some every time she picked it.

When I first started in the ministry, I had the extreme pleasure of working with a “retired” minister- we’ll call him “Ralph”. Ralph was one of the finest human beings, and Christians, I have had the privilege of knowing. When…and if…I grow up, I want to BE Ralph! He had some great stories about his years in the ministry. He used to tell me about being “pounded”. It was the order of the day, early in his ministry, to bring the new pastor a pound of something to help fill his pantry. Ergo, a “pounding”. And he told that he NEVER had as much lard in his house as he did right after a “pounding”!

Anybody who went into the ministry for the money wasn’t paying very close attention on Career Day! I mean, I could make a lot more money out in the marketplace. It’s simply not a profession that you’re going to get rich on. That is, if you measure “rich” by money. BUT- if you measure “rich” by being blessed, then you simply couldn’t choose a better profession.

Is it all kittens and moonbeams? Not even a little bit! Are there days when you feel like you just keep climbing the sheer rock face of Stupid Mountain? You bet! Do you sometimes think about how much better life might be if you chucked it all and went to work at WalMart? Uh huh! But those are the exceptions and NOT the rule.

The rule is that ministry is an awesome thing to be about. I mean, how many of you get a text from someone you “work” with, telling you that they have more sweet corn than they can handle and that, if you want to come out to their farm, you can pick all the corn you want?! I get the extreme pleasure of sharing my life with these folks. I am there when they get married. When their kids are born. When they get baptized. When they are sick. When they lose a loved one. Ministry is NOT a job- it’s a life! Now, if you’ll excuse me- I have sweet corn to pick!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- How Do I Pray: The Prayer of Worship