Thursday, September 23, 2010

Had an opportunity to do a wedding last weekend. I love to do weddings; it is one of my favorite things to do as a pastor. People are excited, there is joy on people's faces, old friendships are rekindled, relatives are seen that have not been seen in a while - it is just a time for celebration!

As I was thinking about what to say at the wedding, my mind was drawn to the mystery of relationships and the mystery of marriage. Agur, one of the contributing authors of Proverbs, wrote this:

"There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.

How these four all relate together is a bit mysterious to me (especially the snake on the rock one), but I totally understand the last one. Because I meet with the couple for several times before the ceremony, I get to watch their love develop and see the mystery of the way with a man with a maiden. I love it!

I think that God and this author have something to say about the mystery of a committed relationship. There is something that happens in a relationship of marital commitment. Not just a commitment to live together; not just a commitment to share physical intimacy; not just a commitment to share finances - a commitment to a life long, a "I am giving myself totally and only to you" relationship with each other. I watch how the way of a man with a woman and the way of a woman with a man develops as they move toward marriage - they understand, and most take very seriously, that they are committing their lives to one another; that this is an "all in" kind of thing. Watching that deep love of commitment develop is truly a mystery!!!

The second mystery that still amazes me is the "two become one" thing (see Matthew 5). I was always taught that 1 + 1 = 2. The mystery of marriage is that 1 + 1 = 1. Have NO clue how that happens, or frankly even a small understanding of what that means, but I know that it is true because God said it and Jesus confirmed it when he was on the earth.

I have been married for 26+ years and there are times when I don't feel like my wife and I are "1"; I sometimes feel we are two separate people. However, when my heart and her heart are knit together on a topic, when my mind thinks about not what is best for me what is best for us, when our actions, although with different approaches, are unified - then I get a glimpse of the glory of what oneness of soul can be like with someone. And guess what, I like that oneness....Still a mystery to me how this supernaturally is accomplished and I know my mind is too small to figure it out, but I can enjoy the fruits of it!!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I have not written anything about the political realm in this forum - there are plenty of places out there that will address political issues that are there for your reading enjoyment! However, I heard something on the radio this morning about government finances and I felt compelled to write this.

Question: how long can we continue to operate outside of Biblical principles as a nation and stand? How long can we mortgage our future, spend more than we take in, have no savings for a rainy day and rob from one account to spend in another account and still be viable as a nation?

The words from Paul's letter to the church at Galatia ring in my ears: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. he one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Gal 6:6-8 NIV). The answer to my question above - not forever or God is a liar (and I know that is not true).

It boggles my mind that every financial planner, every Biblical concept of money, teaches you to spend less than you make, give some money away to charity and save the rest for times when you need funds. That is NOT the example that our government is setting for us.

What if, from a Democrat Party perspective, instead of trying to tax the rich to give to the poor a vision of what helping others who are less fortunate was painted and celebrated. Remember WWII, Katrina and 9/11 - when there are problems in this nation, people respond. Instead of creating divisiveness and sects, what if the Democrats starting telling story after story after story of life change as a result of helping your brother in need, instead of demanding that you help?

What if, from a Republican Party perspective, instead of trying to push against the Democrats they talked about how a CEO can use the resources he has been given to create more jobs, to create homeless training programs, to aid in job training programs. What if a culture of giving was set forth as a vision and celebrated, instead of a culture of greed and self indulgence.

What if every one started talking about fiscal responsibility - spending only what we have? What if we limited the size of government and government became a cheerleader not an overlord, not trying to have government solve all the problems, but LEADING in a way to paint visions of what responsible living can look like? What if they engaged the creativity and heart of the American people in solving problems and stopped putting roadblocks up?

OK, enough whining. But I truly, truly, truly believe that if we don't begin, once again, to operate on Biblical principles, we will not be around much longer and our influence to speak to a lost and dying world about Jesus will be gone. To use a picture of the churches in the first part of Revelation, God will remove our lamp stand and the light that comes from it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

OK, this is going to be a long one. I wrote this letter to a pastor in Ukraine. It flows out of my desire to help him focus his energy in leading a church over there. it also challenged me to focus my energies. Here goes...........

I have been thinking about a couple more things that have sharpened my focus at Ada. I have been asking myself the question – what is the purpose of the church as an organization? A lot of answers to that question came to my mind. To help the poor, to feed the hungry, to give praise to God, to worship together, to evangelize, etc. I then began to think about it in these terms: when I stand before God, what is he going to judge me, one of the leaders of His church, on? What are his commands to me as leader of the church? What am I supposed to accomplish so I can hear the words “well done pastor” from my Savior’s lips?

As I have been reviewing the directives in the New Testament, there are tons of commands for individual believers – how they are to relate to God, how they are to relate to other believers and how they are to relate to non-believers. In fact, a vast majority of the commands are given to guide the behavior of individual believers in their relationships with others. There are a few commands that are given to church leaders and most of these are found in the letters to Timothy and Titus.

The more that I think and read scripture about this the more I believe that when I stand before God, I will have to give an account as a pastor for the following things:
  • Did I teach people how to do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11)?Also, did I release my congregation to do the work of the ministry.It does no good to train them if I don’t release them to do the work and then celebrate with them what God is doing through them?
  • Did I teach people how to be mature in their walk with Christ (Eph 4:12); not only the facts about Christian living (knowledge), but also modeling Christ-like behavior in my day-to-day activities, praising someone when they behaved like Christ and teaching people what a practical faith looks like (for example, when someone is not behaving in a Christ-like way, do I sit down with them, help them understand how God would want them to behave by showing them scripture and then teach them what this could/should look like)?
  • Did I keep them from false teaching (I Tim 1:3; 4:1-11,13) and teach them the Word of God; not my opinion, not my views on life, but the Word of God?
  • Did I set an example for the believers of what Christ-like behavior was supposed to be (4:12)?
  • Did I direct the affairs of the church well (5:17)?
  • Was I impartial in my work and teaching within the church (5:21)?
  • Have I entrusted the work to faithful men who have entrusted it to faithful men (II Tim 2:2)?
  • Do I remind and warn those in my care (2:14)?
  • Do I teach, rebuke, correct and train to equip my congregation (3:16-17; 4:1-2; Titus 2:13)?

Notice what this list does not contain. It talks nothing about feeding the poor. It talks nothing about orphans. It talks nothing about creating community. It talks nothing about gathering the people together to worship. It only talks about discipleship – preparing people to do the work of ministry. That is what we are going to be judged on as leaders of His church – how many people did we equip to do the work of the ministry and what did we teach them.

I realize that this might be a overly simple view of what the church is to be. I understand that in order to equip people to do the work of the ministry that we sometimes have to model certain behaviors such as worship, caring for orphans and feeding the poor; but this is not our core function and never should be. These behaviors SHOULD be a natural reaction to discipleship – the work of the ministry that our congregation members need to be doing IS worshiping, feeding the poor, visiting those in prison, helping the sick, etc. (see Matthew 25:31-46). OUR job is to disciple; their job (and ours as individual believers for that matter; if we don’t model it, then our congregation won’t do it) is to do the work of the ministry.

Sorry about the length of this one. Hope that it helps...

Friday, September 10, 2010

What a week! The work week ended with a large number of people wearing pink at the Lowell stadium. Great event that took tons of planning and work to get it set up, execute the event and tear it down (that's tomorrow). I am always amazed at what can happen if people put their minds, hearts and hands to it.

Puts me to shame though. I have the greatest command, the greatest God and the greatest gift in the whole world and sometimes I don't put forth the energy that I should to tell others. It is easy to become complacent; easy to let others do it; easy to just write in blogs.....

In Genesis 11, Moses recorded the commentary of God on the Tower of Babel. This was his comment: "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." The people were bent on evil, so God scattered them so they could not build their tower to the heavens.

A friend of mine uses this for his business seminar - if your employees have one language, one focus and work as one, then there is nothing that cannot be done. This should be true of the church - we have one focus (or more appropriately one command) and one God - there is nothing we should not be able to do.

Unfortunately, it seems like we lose the focus we are supposed to have and focus on other things. I am not sure that when we stand before God to give account of our activities he is going to worry about what our church buildings looked like, what kind of carpet we selected, how many different ministries we had, how many we had attend our services, even how many of the poor we fed. He is going to ask us did we obey his commission to us - did we go and make disciples, did we use all our energy, were we totally focused, did we use our head, heart and hands to make disciples.

Something to think about and work at........