Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Happiness

This was one of my Mom's favorite songs. If you didn't listen to it (or missed the words) here are the lyrics:
Evening shadows make me blue
When each weary day is through
How I long to be with you -- my happiness
Every day I reminisce
Dreaming of your tender kiss
Always thinking how I miss -- my happiness
A million years it seems
Have gone by since we shared our dreams
But I'll hold you again,
There'll be no blue memories then
Whether skies are gray or blue
Any place on earth will do
Just as long as I'm with you -- my happiness
Whether skies are gray or blue
Any place on earth will do
Just as long as I'm with you -- my happiness

Though this isn't a "religious" song, I see an application for us as Christians. If we truly see Jesus (or any aspect of the triune God) as "our happiness" then any place on earth will be fine for us--just as long as we are with God. We all have good times and bad times. The good news is that God is there at ALL times! The true question is, do you really want Him there? Is God your "Happiness?" or is God the one who is "out to spoil your fun?"

When we get to the place where God is truly "our Happiness" the Joy that will come stays regardless of our present circumstances (important in today's volatile climate.) So, how about you? Is God your happiness, or are you looking for that joy somewhere else? Here is a secret. No matter where you look, true happiness will never be found apart from God!

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Habits

It is amazing how many new habits I have developed in the few days that I have had Kizzy. I now exercise several times a day (because Kizzy needs to walk for her exercise). I now make sure all the dishes are in the dishwasher (not the sink!) and the counter is cleaned off. These are things that most people do anyway, but I always found an excuse (I'm too busy, I'll do it later) and now these excuses have to go away.

I now keep the floor clean of clutter (no more setting the newspaper on the floor to be thrown away the next time I head to the trash can). I am not sure who is being trained more, me or Kizzy!

None-the-less, the early morning and late evening walks are becoming something that both of us look forward to having. It is also nice to have a bit of company (though sometimes she wants to be more company that I am used to having).

The bottom line is this, Kizzy is making me a better person. If that is true of a dog, don't you think that it is important that as Christian our presence makes people better? Who we are and how we act must make a difference in those we come into contact, or we aren't being what we should be! Let us all learn a lesson from my interaction with Kizzy--brighten the little piece of the world where you are and make it a better place!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Family Member

Well, tomorrow I will get a new family member! Kizzy will join the family. She is an 18 month old dog of undetermined pedigree (though they think she may have some Australian Shepherd in her).
Kizzy will get to see the rest of the family on Saturday when Amy and Rachel come up to see her. Right now, the big question is whether or not she will stay in Stillwater, or move to Princeton after I spend the week after Easter there!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I Make Crosses

Over the last couple of weeks, I have learned another of the hazards of growing older. It seems that my skin is getting thinner! I have been making crosses in my workshop. I am making them from oak that was giving to me by a couple of members (the wood actually came from trees on their farms that they harvested and cut into boards). This oak is not completely finished--it is a bit rough. It seems that every time I work with it, I end up knocking off a little piece of skin. It isn't all that painful, just irritating.

So, now when I work with the wood I have to wear gloves. It isn't that I have anything against gloves, it is just that I miss the feel of the wood in my hands. There is something therapeutic about working with wood. I make the crosses to give to people when I visit with them in the hospital or when they are having a spiritual crisis (or sometimes just to say I am praying for you). As I work on them (with praise music playing in the background) I pray for those who will receive them. It therefore becomes an extension of my ministry.

Some people might think it strange for a preacher to spend hours in a workshop making crosses when I could buy a cross without the time spent or the blood lost, but it is more than just a "prayer cross" that I am making. When I spend the time to make them, I am literally giving a piece of myself to everyone who receives a cross.

What is it that you can do for others? My mother-in-law gives a part of herself when she makes and embroiders the blankets that our congregation ties for prayer blankets. The people who receive them may never see her, but she is there. I had an aunt in a small town in Kentucky that would make banana bread from the bananas the store in town could no longer sell. Both the woman who gave her the bananas (for free) and my aunt had a special ministry in providing these delicious breads to the people of the area. So, again I ask, what can you do for others?

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us all take time to figure out just what we can do to make someone else's life better. Be it banana bread, a cross, or simply a phone call to check in on someone that you haven't seen for a while. It is the right think to do, and you'll feel better for having done it!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Three Simple Rules

John Wesley had three simple rules to follow. this advice is still as good for us today as it was when he first penned them. they are:
Do no harm by any word or deed;
Do good wherever there is need.
Remain attentive to God's word.
Three simple rules, but how often we struggle with them! We are to watch our words and our actions. Why? To make sure that we do no harm to those around us. An idle word, or a negligent action can make a big difference in the lives of those we come into contact. A friend of mine wrote in his facebook status today that someone who attended his church told him, "Only losers who can't make it in the real world become ministers!" Thankfully, he is strong enough to take that criticism, but the meanness in such a statement is evident. Many years ago, I spent a day on a pig farm and the pig farmer spent a day doing youth ministry with me. After the end of the two days, we BOTH were glad to do our own jobs! We are called to different tasks and no task in its self makes one a loser. However, how we treat our tasks (and the people we come into contact) does!

Doing good wherever there is a need is a hard one. Why? Because we tend to ignore the things that are going on around us (if at all possible) that are not pleasant. It doesn't matter where you live, there are people who need your help. It could be as simple as giving directions to someone who is lost or as difficult (and painful) as becoming a bone marrow donor. The key idea is being aware enough of what is going on around you to be able to do the good that you can do.

The final rule is what makes the first two possible. Remain attentive to God's word. It is here that we find the knowledge of the good and the strength to do it. We live in an increasingly evil world. If we could just get Christians to follow these three simple rules, we could begin to make a difference. We may never be able to solve all of the world's problems, but let us each find a little piece of the problem to fix this week!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cat and Dog Theology

I am reading a book called Cat and Dog Theology. It starts with this old joke:
A dog says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God. A cat says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God."
These traits can be used to look at our own theological values.

According to the book:
For Cats, success is defined in the eyes of men. "How big is our church? How many baptisms are we having each year? How many come to Sunday School?" Dogs define success in the eyes of God. The question is not "How big is our church?" but "Are the people we shepherd obeying the Lord and worshiping Him?"

For Cats, repentance is out, and self-esteem is in. For Dogs, repentance is a part of life, and holiness is in. Cats hunger to be entertained in the church. Dogs hunger to worship God and reflect His glory. Cats love head knowledge. Bible trivia is fun. Dogs love that which draws them closer to God. They are more interested in obeying the Lord than simply knowing about Him.

Cats want the full picture before they obey God. Dogs are happy to obey the little the Lord gives. Cats believe the Church is at peace. Dogs believe the Church is at war. Cats have an arbitrary truth--it changes as the wind changes. Dogs have an absolute truth--it never changes for them. Cats have a "feel-good" theology. Dogs have an "obedience" theology.

Cats see missions as reaching out to the foreign family who runs the local 7-eleven convenience store. Dogs see missions as revealing His glory to all the people groups of the earth. Cats can't envision a loving God sending anyone to hell. Dogs know that hell exists because a loving God is holy and just and promises to judge sin.

Some Cats can't imagine why God would cause anyone to suffer eternally for a finite set of sins. Dogs know that hell is eternal because an infinite glory has been rejected. Cats see an immigrant family move next door and think, "There goes the neighborhood." Dogs see it as an opportunity to reveal God's glory to another culture. Cats want their children to bring them glory. Dogs want their children to bring glory to God.

Cats see a job as a means of attaining wealth. Dogs see a job as a ministry opportunity. Cats think God is a means to an end. Dogs think God IS the end.
You get the picture. The kennel that is the church is full of both Cats and Dogs. I'm sure you know some of both. The thing is, (and I do mean this without being mean to cats) God wants his Kingdom to go to the Dogs! It is high time we stopped living like everything is about us and living for God. After all, everything IS all about Him! So grab a Milk-Bone and let's get busy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Murphy's Law governing Bible study.

A few years ago the Whittenburg Door offered "Murphy's Law governing Bible study."
1. After your ideas are firmly in place, find scripture to back it up.
2. If scripture contradicts your ideas, ignore it.
3. When in doubt, use Christian jargon.
The older I get, the more churches I work with, the more I believe that this is the greatest problem among Christians. We work hard to make the Bible say what we want it to say, rather than allowing the Word to work on us. We need to depend upon the Word of God to tells us how to live and not pull out "proof texts" to defend how we want to live.

Dr. W.O. Carver, had a famous sermon that he called, "My Bible." The thrust of the sermon was that my Bible is not necessarily the entire Book. My Bible is the part of the Bible that I live and take into my heart and actions. The goal of every Christian is to gradually make my bible (the part I really live) grow to become the entire Bible. I think everyone is guilty of selecting the little parts that we want while omitting the rest. Is the passage on tithing a part of your Bible? Do you live it or do you simply select your way around it? Is the passage on loving your enemies a part of your bible, or do you just choose to ignore it? What about the passage on turning the other cheek? Is that a part of your Bible?

You get the idea. We all too often choose to use "our Bible" rather than to use the entire Book. So, what do you say? Isn't about time we started reading, believing, and basing our actions on the entire Bible? Yep, I think so too!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sad but True

In the congregation I serve, I have many people that are older and hearing has become an issue. Those who know me, know that I don't generally stay put behind the pulpit when I preach. Many have had problem hearing (I use a wireless mic, but it isn't of the best quality). Last week, I tried an experiment--preaching with no microphone at all. the results, they here me better than with the mic!

I know that I can "project" fairly well, but when I am easier to hear without the microphone it is a little embarrassing! The goal is to be heard, so until I can find the funds to get a decent microphone, I guess I will have to simply "speak up."

To me, this is a bit of a bigger lesson. We have more and more technology at our disposal. We are beginning to use more and more technology in our churches (and I am all for technology). However, sometimes technology isn't the answer, the personal touch is. We can send emails, have a blog and a website, but if we don't do the hard work of personal contact, we are simply a clanging gong. Emails may be sent in love, but to "feel" the love often needs more--it needs the personal touch that can only come through actual human contact.

So, as we look at ways to reach out to our neighbors, let us not scrap technology, but more importantly, let us not rely so much on technology that we scrap the personal contact! Who do you need to see this week?

P.S. On another Sad but True note, though it is hard for me to believe that I can be that old--Todd, my oldest turns 27 today! Happy Birthday Todd!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

State of Fusion Report

It has been a while since I talked about fusion, and since this blog owes its name to my efforts at fusion in the church, I guess it is time to put it back on the table!

Over the last few months, I have witnessed the power of God working here in Stillwater. People have literally come out of nowhere to begin worshiping with us. This is both exciting and challenging! Exciting, because new people attending (in a small church where everyone knows your name!) means something is happening. Challenging, because we have many people now attending that have no idea what it means to be a Presbyterian or even what it means to be "Reformed."

The fusion of these new people with the long-time attenders is beginning. It has taken a little time for each group to warm up to each other, but it IS happening. New people are seeing the church with their "new" eyes and finding ways to make the building more attractive and functional. Eyesores and inconveniences that the long-time attenders ignored are being taken care of by the new attenders!

Fusion is not automatic. Fusion is sometimes difficult and draining. But, fusion is so worth it! I pray that every congregation would begin to look at ways to fuse people into the Body of Christ! Hard work, but, Oh so worth it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Be With God-Prayer

I am leading a Lenten Study tonight on the topic "Be With God-Prayer." As I was working on it these verses came to mind. First, Mark 1:35, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Alone, while it was still very early, Jesus felt the need to pray. He had spent the previous evening healing. After praying He went back to work.

Second, Luke 5:16, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Jesus OFTEN withdrew and prayed. Third verse, Luke 6:12, "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." The next day Jesus chose the 12 men that would become his apostles. Before this major decision of choosing the 12, Jesus spent the night in prayer. Finally, Matthew 14:23, "After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone," Jesus had just finished teaching and feeding the 5000, and would follow up this prayer by walking on water top reach the disciples.

Pray? Some people do, but most don’t, except when they’re in the midst of a crisis. Many people who do pray just go through the motions, never really expecting God to answer. What we think about God shapes the way we experience Him in prayer, and how we experience Him in prayer transforms what and how we think about Him. The primary reason not to pray has to do with control. We want to be in control. Genuine prayer means giving up control of our destiny to God. Many people don’t pray because of the way they perceive reality. They simply deny the existence of God. For people like that, it would be absurd to pray. Another reason people don’t pray is that they think it is too hard. They think intimacy with God is reserved for spiritual giants—ordinary people can never experience God like Mother Theresa or John Wesley. The fact of the matter is that God calls out to every human being through Jesus. Prayer does not demand any particular talent, or special skill. Effective prayer simply demands a desire to know God, the desire to move beyond ourselves into the richness of God’s kingdom. Prayer is a discipline, but it is a discipline that everyone can learn!

Prayer is not a monologue to God; it is a conversation with God. One of the two biggest faults in many people’s prayer life is the failure to give time for God to respond to our prayers. Our prayer time needs to have silence in order for us to listen for God. During this silence we are actively listening for God. The response probably won’t come in an audible voice, but in images or simply in nothing! Sometimes, the silence prepares our hearts for God to answer us IN HIS TIME. It may be later that day, in our dreams at night, or though an individual or situation you deal with following your prayer. (By the way, the second biggest fault in many people's prayer life is the failure to thank God for answered prayers!)

This Lenten season, Be With God, take time to PRAY!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Will Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving in My Heart

I was working on the songs for our 8:30 AM Sunday praise service this morning ans I was playing "I will enter His gates" it dawned on me that this is the whole reason for Lent and the penitent spirit that we are to develop during this time. When we truly allow ourselves to reflect on how truly inadequate we are and how impossible it would be for us to enter God's presence on our own merit, it shows us just how grateful we should be that Jesus paid the price for us!

Because of Jesus I CAN enter his gates with thanksgiving! Let us all prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration that is Easter. Let us be prepared not just to enter His gates, but to enter them with thanksgiving in our hearts!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lord, Teach Me

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.
--a prayer of Ignatius Loyola

As we continue our Lenten journey, this prayer of Ignatius Loyola seems very appropriate. We are to use this time before Easter to prepare ourselves for Easter. What better way to prepare ourselves for Easter than to practice generosity! As we truly practice generosity, I believe it will lead us down the path that Ignatius Loyola has shown us.

Generosity leads us to service; service to giving, giving to fighting (for Jesus, not against our brothers and sisters in Christ!); fighting to toil without seeking rest; and finally laboring for Jesus--not for reward, but simply for the joy of serving Jesus.

This may seem to be a hard path to take, but Jesus reminds us that His yoke is light and that by coming to Him we will find rest. That is the hard part for many to understand. We toil, not because we want rest, but in Jesus we find that rest anyway!

This week, as you prepare yourself for Easter, why not reflect on this prayer of Ignatius Loyola and give generously, fight valiantly, and labor tirelessly for God. Trust me, if you do these things, you WILL experience your best Easter ever!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

6 Purposes of the Church --Number Six

I got so busy talking about the healing service and the ecumenical service last week that I forgot to mention the last of the 6 purposes of the church! The sixth and final purpose is prayer--thus the prayer and healing service.


Jesus was devoted to prayer. LUKE 6:12 It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. LUKE 5:16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. When He was busy and tired. MAT 14:23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

During His darkest hour, when He was about to be crucified, during His time of deepest need Jesus made time to pray. LUKE 22:39-46 Whenever Jesus did something or before He did something He prayed to God. Raising of Lazarus. John 11:41-ff.

How much prayer meant to Jesus! It was not only his regular habit, but his resort in every emergency, however slight or serious. When perplexed he prayed. When hard pressed by work he prayed. When hungry for fellowship he found it in prayer. He chose his associates and received his messages upon his knees. If tempted, he prayed. If criticized, he prayed. If fatigued in body or wearied in spirit, he had recourse to his one unfailing habit of prayer. Prayer brought him unmeasured power at the beginning, and kept the flow unbroken and undiminished. There was no emergency, no difficulty, no necessity, no temptation that would not yield to prayer.

The early church was devoted to prayer. ACT 1:14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. ACT 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The Leadership of the church was devoted to prayer also! ACT 6:4 "But we (Leaders of the church) will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." ROM 12:10-13 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Prayer is a way to show devotion to someone. 1TH 5:17 pray without ceasing; (Never stop!)

Prayer should be a priority because God hears us. ROM 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 1PETER 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." JAMES 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Prayer is the channel from which blessings flow. MARK 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. MAT 21:22 "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." JOHN 16:24 "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer.

Prayer is a way to express thanksgiving to God. It is probable that in most of us the spiritual life is impoverished and stunted because we give so little place to gratitude. It is more important to thank God for blessings received than to pray for them beforehand. For that forward-looking prayer, though right as an expression of dependence upon God, is still self-centered in part, at least, of its interest; there is something we hope to gain by our prayer. But the backward-looking act of thanksgiving is quite free from this. In itself it is quite selfless. Thus it is akin to love. All our love to God is in response to his love for us; it never starts on our side. "We love, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). -- William Temple. PHI 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 1TI 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men.

We can have inner peace from prayer. HOPE. Notice that when things go bad, most people respond with prayer. PHI 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


People that we do not get a long with need our prayers. MAT 5:44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. LUKE 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. You cannot hate those you pray for.
The sick need our prayers. Government and church leaders need our prayers. When Edward Everett Hale was chaplain of the U.S. Senate, someone asked him, "Do you pray for the senators, Dr. Hale?" He replied, "No, I look at the senators and pray for the country." ACTS 12:5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. HEB 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. PRAY FOR THEM. 1TI 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Other churches need our prayers. 2CO 9:13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Sometimes the spirit of jealousy and competition keeps us from praying for the other churches.

The lost need our prayers. ROM 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. Israel in the context. I believe that if we pray for those who are lost, we will make an even greater effort to reach them.

Prayer is an important function of the church. I do not how many times I have told a person who did not think they could do much for the church that they could have a prayer ministry. Usually the response is not very enthusiastic. Our failure to think of prayer as a privilege may be partly due to the fact that we can pray any time. The door to prayer is open so continuously that we fail to avail ourselves of an opportunity which is always there. If we tell someone to do something that seems hard or spectacular, we are more apt to do it than to do something as simple as prayer.

Like art, like music, like so many other disciplines, prayer can only be appreciated when you actually spend time in it. Spending time with the Master will elevate your thinking. The more you pray, the more will be revealed. You will understand. You will smile and nod your head as you identify with others who fight long battles and find great joy on their knees. When we don’t pray, it’s primarily because we don’t sense our need for God.

No one should be alone when he opposes Satan. The church and the ministry of the Word were instituted for this purpose, that hands may be joined together and one may help another. If the prayer of one doesn’t help, the prayer of another will. The final question is this, "Do you use prayer as a spare tire instead or your steering wheel?"