Friday, January 23, 2009

Day Off

My first year at Grace I probably worked 12 hour days, Sunday thru Saturday, to try and get things going. I did not take off one Sunday and only took a few days off during the week and no vacation. This lasted for about eighteen months until in January of 2006 I hit a brick wall. What happened in those 18 months was absolutely amazing. The church found their way again and began to grow. We tried lots of new ministries (experiments) and some worked, and some did not. We built a solid foundation for a healthy, vital and strong church. Though in the midst of it, I was drained, spiritually and physically, and needed to recharge the batteries. I read a wonderful book by Gordon McDonald called, "Ordering Your Private World". I had been working so hard trying to help turn the church around I had allowed myself to develop some rather unhealthy eating habits and was not exercising like I needed. I really believe it was what I needed to do so that we might become a fruitful church again. I learned some valuable lessons during that time. One of the big ones was that pastors need a day off. I've been serving the church as a pastor for 10 years and I have tried different days of the week as a day off. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday? Never tried Tuesdays, don't know why. I finally settled on Fridays. It's always a good day to go to Neighbors for breakfast, ride bikes, go for walks and if we go seen our parents, we can leave on Thursday nights if we don't have meetings. A day off has greatly helped in dealing with stress and a time to find some release as I then approach the final touches on the sermon on Saturday. When was the last time you took a day off? Are you stressed, burned out, edgy and tired? If so, then take a personal day off and find your bearings. You will be a much happier and healthier person. And remember, to go in peace and go with God.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Prayer

Every day I pray. It's really simple. My prayers in the morning begin with the Lord's prayer right after I have read my chapter of the Bible that day. As I move through the prayer I emphasize different parts of it every day. Some days the words emphasized are "hallowed", others "daily bread", other days it's of course, "thy will be done". After I start with Lord's prayer, I pray for the day, people I have on my heart that I know are going through a tough day. Prayers for family and friends, for the church and other events upcoming. Through the day my prayers are short and to the point (that should be no shock). Often, my prayers occur while driving. As I end my day I read another chapter from the Bible and then to the Lord's Prayer again. The evening prayers for for my wife, family, extended family, then our Bishop and Cabinet. Then friends who serve the church, then specific families in the church who are in need of words to God and then the state, country and world. All in all, my day begins with prayer and reading the Bible and ends in a similar fashion. I've been doing this now for more years that I can remember. There is some variation to the discipline, but for the most part, it remains enriching and and wonderful way to start and end the day. Please, if you are a follower of Christ, spend some time in prayer. Spend some time in God's word. It will for sure help you through your day and draw you closer to Christ. Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Slow Fade

I was listening to K-love (97.3) on the way in this morning and heard "Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns. It talks about "be careful" little eyes, feet and ears what you see, where you go and what you hear. Essentially, turning to a life of sin and away from Christ for most of us is not a one day thing, it's a slow fade. We slowly fade away from God and push him out of the picture. The fade refers to our spiritual disciplines that we let go (praying, worship, scripture) and be careful part refers to being exposed to sin in this world. Many Christians are very careful with what their children encounter. TV and the internet are monitored when they are around, but it's what people and children do when no one is watching but God that really counts. Don't let your relationship with the church or Jesus Christ slowly fade away because of something bad that has happened to you. If you are going through a tough time, reconnect with the church. Seek out help from the one who really can help. And remember, all the days of your life to go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Transition and Change

Today millions witnessed the peaceful transition of power that has marked the Presidency of the United States for over 200 years. George Washington handed over the Presidency to John Adams peacefully, and now we see George W. Bush hand over the Presidency to Barack Obama. We live in a country where many days in Washington the language used against political opponents sinks to a level that does not honor anyone but the speaker, and yet today, the language is large, robust and honors the tradition of sacrifice, patriotism and freedom that has been so precious to this country. Rev. Rick Warren's invocation was amazing, as was Rev. Joseph Lowery's beautiful benediction. The bookends as you will to a brilliant and eloquent Inauguration. Clothe yourselves in prayer and in the Spirit of God as you faithfully endeavor to seek Him throughout your days. May the God of peace and hope remind us to walk humbly all the days of our lives so that we may follow obediently the purpose God has placed on our hearts. Go in peace and go with God and praise God for the peace exeperienced this day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Healthy Growth

Over the past few years there has been a model for the church called "church growth". The church growth model helps you focus all of your time, energy and resources on growing the church. Mainly, growth is centered around worship attendance. There is nothing wrong with this model unless a church is growing to be growing. There has to be something more under the numbers. A church must be developing faithful, healthy disciples who are going out into the world and making a difference. Several mega churches this past year admitted their error in growing large worship services without providing enough discipleship to grow the people coming. A healthy church grows not out of a desire of higher and bigger numbers, but out of the mystical and never-ending call of God on our hearts. God continually provides a way for us to bring health and vitality to the church. More often than not, God will speak to us as a whisper on the wind, but if we are too busy running, running, running all over the place, it's nearly impossible to hear Him. Pray that we may all stay faithful to the call God has placed on our hearts. Go in peace and go with God.
*From 2004 to 2007 Grace grew 16% in worship. In 2008 we grew 9% in worship. That is right, over the past few years we have seen growth in worship of around 25%!!! Pretty cool. Good job Grace!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

For Richer, For Poorer- Finding Financial Peace

This week we tackled the not so easy topic of finances in a marriage. The article I referred to in the sermon can be found here. It talks about the six financial mistakes that couples make. A very enlightening and for many of us difficult article to read through. Money is not an easy thing to talk about for some reason. A touchy subject some might say. I guess the way I view it is pretty simple. God has blessed me too many times to count. So as a Christian I am going to do whatever it takes to help others with the money God has given me. So, for many, we start with a tithe to our church. Then, we have 90% of our income left to save, spend and give. Most checks go to a mortgage probably, and then vehicles, utilities, possibly other debts and then finally, saving and giving. Hopefully, as we walk through the next few weeks if you are struggling you might consider taking Financial Peace University. It's a class we will be offering again this spring. If you are doing well then maybe you have put all this stuff into practice and praise God! If you are kinda struggling or if you are in a financial hole, please contact the church and we can get you into the class and help you find a way back to a place of joy and peace. Go in peace and go with God.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ummm, it's cold here

So its cold. No, its frigid. Actually, we are in the middle of some crazy artic front that has descended from the great north. The windchill is -20 here in good ole Kansas City. I mentioned on Sunday that cold is like sin and we have to insulate ourselves from it. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of sin. And not a big fan of cold. I love November and December as we move from fall to winter and the temperature drops, we light our fireplaces and enjoy being out in a winter wonderland. Around mid January early February our beautiful wonderland turns into a frigid, bitter and icy cold tundra of bleakness. Yes, again, not a big fan of the cold. One thing the cold does is make me grumpy. Alright, I become grumpy in the cold. I don't bound out of bed in the morning for face the day during this time of the year, it's more of a slowly emerge from under the covers like a giant whale breaking the surface of the water. Yeah, its cold. Whether it's the cold or something else, I'm sure there are things in our lives that make us grumpy or frustrated. So, what do you do? Weather the storm? Or just walk around in a stupor? Even thought I deplore the cold weather, I will venture out and try and enjoy the day. God has given all of us so many blessings and joys, it's selfish to be grumpy with some of the minor circumstances that go on around us. So yes, I do not enjoy really cold weather, but I do enjoy healthy relationships with family, friends and the church. Stay warm and go in peace and go with God.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vows, Covenants and Promises- For Better, For Worse

As many of you know, we started a sermon series on marriage the first Sunday of the New Year. This week we covered the second vow in the marriage vows "For Better, For Worse". Hopefully it's easy to remember the "for better" times in your marriage. For better describes the wonderful experiences, the joy filled times that you and your spouse have gone through. Whether you have been married a few months or 75 years, you probably already have some great stories to share. There is a street near downtown Kansas City that is notorious for having lots of potholes. The city works and works, but the road is rather rough. When I lived in the City I would avoid this road. At the time I drove a small sedan and every time I would hit that pothole it would rattle my car. Even though it was a regular road that I had to travel on I finally decided to take another route. So many couples in marriage feel like the "for worse" seems to be a rocky road they travel on all too often. For worse means that you will stick it out during the rough spots, the tough times. If you are going through a tough time right now in your marriage, talk to someone. Find a good marriage counselor, talk to your pastor or some other trusted Christian friends. Talk to some people who have been married for at least 20 years. They might know a thing or two about longevity in marriage. All in all, you made a vow and under God to be there during the good times and the bad. Be there for each other and work out your struggles. Do not let a small argument or disagreement turn into years of frustration and anger. Pray and read your Bible together. Go in peace and go with God.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Good Night Sleep

It may have taken several years, but I finally have learned the benefit of a good night sleep. That may sound silly to some, but did you know that nearly 50% of Americans struggle getting 6-8 hours every night. So half of us are walking around dead tired and cranky. So we fill our bodies with caffeine through Dr. Pepper and high priced coffee. Is that really the way it is supposed to be? A few years ago I gave up most forms of caffeine for approximately 6 months. After the first few weeks I started feeling better, stronger, healthier and much more relaxed. It was a good time, but for some reason, I decided my endeavor was over and I would go back to drinking Dr. Pepper (never coffee, as I said the other day, coffee tastes like dirt to me- acquired taste I heard). Anyway, when we are juicing up our hearts and minds with so much caffeine to make it through the day, it's tough to wind down at night. If you are experiencing stress (check my post yesterday) looking at the factors that feed into can help you find some peace. Sometimes we cannot remove the factors, so then what? Well, a good night sleep, 6-8 hours can do wonders. A peaceful night of rest will clear your mind and whatever you were worrying about yesterday will hopefully not be a big challenge anymore. If you are carrying a big weight on your shoulders every day, so big that you need to talk, give the church a call. Let us know what is going on so that you are not going it alone. Enjoy this beautiful and rather brisk day and go in peace and go with God.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Stress

To say the least, it has been a rather stressful week. It's been ups and downs, ups and downs. We all experience those kinds of days and weeks. It can be draining, frustrating, upsetting and just plain tiring. Stress can get to you. Stress pulls and pushes and runs us down and runs us over. So, my advice---dive into a half-gallon of Blue Bunny Chunky Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Oh wait, maybe some strawnanna with chocolate syrup from Custards Last Stand. Oh yeah, that works. Seriously, why not gain some weight, eat some bad food to make all the stress go away...alright, that is probably not a good idea. When we have the weight of the world upon us it's time to run toward God, not away from Him. Yeah, it's tough. Breathe deep. Pray deep and allow the peace of God to enter your heart and mind. Oh, turn off the tv too. Remove the stresses and struggles for a few hours. Find time to be with God and find time to be at peace. And if you really really want that ice cream, make it one scoop, not the whole half gallon. Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year

Happy New Year...a few days late. How long can you say "Happy New Year?" Just one day? For a few days? The first time you see someone in the New Year? Who knows. I just keep saying it until people start to look at me funny. That happens all too often I fear. But Happy New Year anyway. I heard this year that the top two New Year's resolutions are: Losing Weight and Spending more time with family and friends. The second one actually is gaining on the first. Meaning, that the focus of losing weight (personal satisfaction) might actually be losing to the building of healthy relationships with others (altruism). That is a pretty big deal when just about every social theorists is rekindling the fires of narcissism in a culture that has I-pods, My-Space, etc. Maybe facebook (social networking site) is helping a bit. Keeping us better connected by knowing what is going on in someones life, especially with some making hourly updates to their status. As we begin the New Year I hope you are able to look back over the year and say, ya know, I made a difference for the better in this world. And maybe, you can look forward to making a bigger difference this next year. I resolve to deepen my faith through different forms of prayer, I resolve to get healthier through exercise and diet, to be more intentional about being in conversations instead of being so busy, to finish writing one of the five books and novels I have sitting on my desktop and finally, I hope to give more, serve more and love more.