Monday, June 29, 2009

Living Out Our Christian Walk

In chapter 25 of Matthew Jesus talks about judging at the last day. He describes it as the way a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25: 31-46 NIV)

This challenges me every time I read it. Why? because the difference between the sheep and the goats is so evident. The difference is in what they DID and DIDN'T DO. We are given opportunities to serve Jesus every day and often we let that opportunity slip away because we are too worried about other THINGS and not about PEOPLE. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. But he also fed the hungry, healed the sick and gave comfort to those in need.

You have an opportunity to do something for Jesus TODAY. What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pretty Cool

Yesterday I was pondering what to preach this coming Sunday. I had 3 sermon ideas running through my mind. The one that I planned to preach when I did my planning and outlining during my study leave and two others. It just so happens that my youth group lesson last night dealt with one of the other two topics. After I had finished the youth group lesson, one of my kids said, "you should preach about that sometime!" I guess I really didn't need a better "sign from God" as to which of the three seermons I am going to prepare and preach!

How often does God gives us these little "clues" and we simply miss them because we are to self-absorbed? And I don't just mean preachers. How many times does the Lord reveal to you something you should be doing through the interaction we have with others and we simply miss it?

The Holy Spirit is alive and well and we need to pay attention! As you go through this week, make sure that you are open to the leading of the Spirit. It will make all the difference!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why am I a Pastor?

Why am I a pastor? The simple answer is that God has called me to be a pastor. But there is so much more to it than that. I first felt God's call to ministry back in 1975. At that time I was a 15 year old high school student. I had every intention of spending the rest of my life serving God in the Youth Ministry.

I went to Bible College and graduated with a double major in Bible and Christian Education. I had served two churches while in school as a week-end Youth Minister and after graduation began working full-time as a Youth Minister. I loved the youth ministry and was blessed by God with the ability to grow the youth groups at every place I served. Unfortunately, I was too immature to see that I was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. It was all about ME. I felt that I was the reason that everything was going so well. I was a great Youth Minister. I this and I that. I had a BIG "I" problem and didn't even realize it!

The Lord was able to use me for years (even though I had the "I" problem) until I finally was totally lost in the ministry. I worked hard. I put in way too many hours. I had to, because results were what gave me "worth" in my eyes. I finally lost my first marriage because of this "I" problem.

I have to admit, when my first marriage ended, I was convinced that I would never be a Pastor again. I moved to Oklahoma and began attending a Presbyterian Church. While attending this congregation, I was invited to and attended a "Cursillo" weekend. It was here that I experienced God's grace for the first time. I had taught and preached about grace. I knew (intellectually) what grace was. But it was here that I truly experienced grace.

My life changed. I became content to be the best "member" that I could be. I taught Sunday School with my wife. I became a Deacon and later an Elder in that congregation. Still, I never really thought I would be a pastor again.

God is great and He has a wonderful sense of humor. God led me first to Sterling College and the Lay Academy with my wife. She will tell you that I only went on her behalf and not because I felt I needed to go. She was right. That IS how I felt! I had spent 20 plus years in ministry, why should I have to do this to be able to preach in a Presbyterian church? Well, God was beginning a long process of healing with me, that's why!

God arranged for a new job for me in New Jersey and had that job pay for my cross country move. Then within 9 months, I was forced to choose between my integrity and my job. There was really never a choice. I didn't realize it at the time, but God was simply getting me close to Princeton Theological Seminary so that I could attend there!

I was given the opportunity to serve a small congregation while I was in Seminary (actually I started there about a year before I entered Seminary and continued serving there for a year after I graduated). I enjoyed my work outside of the ministry to a certain extent, but it was when I began to pastor again that I realized that the call from God back in 1975 was still valid. I tried to do other things, but God kept pushing me back into the ministry!

I now realize how shallow I was in my first go round in the ministry. It was all about me and not all about God. God has allowed me to grow into the minister that he requires and has blessed me with a wonderful wife who both supports me and my ministry. In fact, she is preparing herself for a specialized ministry of her own in Pastoral Counseling. I look forward to the day when I can refer my counseling load over to her!

So, why am I a Pastor? Because God has called me to be one and I want to do my best for Him. Results are no longer my concern. Faithfulness is! So, if you are called to be a pastor, don't fight it, but if you are not called, don't do it! God has called each of us to ministry whether it is as a car mechanic, Walmart greeter, or Pastor. Just make sure you know which one you are called to be!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why Do Bad Things happen to Good People?

This is probably the most asked question by "seekers" and "young" Christians. Well, even seasoned veteran Christians may ask that same question! There are several reasons why these things happen and none of them are "that God just doesn't care!"

The first thing we need to realize that none of us are "good." We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. How do I know? The Bible says so. So, the first thing we need to realize is that no matter how good we think we are, we are not good! That being said, let us look at the reasons that bad things happen to "good" people. First, personal sin. It may not be your own personal sin that does you in, it could be that of someone else (a drunk driver hits and injures or kills an innocent person.) The second is corporate sin (think of the Tower of Babel.) The third is Satanic influences. Satan is alive and well and seeking to discourage and dishearten the people of the world (especially those of us who claim Jesus as our Savior.) The final reason that bad things happen is to allow for God's providence. When we are discouraged or disheartened, we are more open to God's leading. In fact, in Luke 13 Jesus tells his listeners that the bad things that had happened recently were a wake up call for everyone to repent!

We live in a fallen world. We will be subject to bad things happening as long as we dwell here. The Good News is that when we finish the race, we will live eternally with nothing but good happening! So, don't be discouraged if you are going through bad times (and if you aren't, just wait, you will!) God is in control and the best is yet to come!

Monday, June 15, 2009

To Robe or Not To Robe

To robe or not to robe, that is the question! While many people feel that the robe (for the clergy) is a sign of office, respect, and dignity, I feel that it is a poor theological statement to wear one! I'll tell you why in a moment, but first, rest assured that even though I don't feel that wearing a robe is in line with my theological beliefs, I do wear a robe at times. For special occasions (such as funerals, weddings, baptisms, and communion) I don the robe (howbeit reluctantly.)

So, why do I have a problem with the robe? I feel that Scripture clearly states that ALL Christians are in the priesthood. If we are all priests, then why should only the preacher be wearing a robe? Shouldn't we all be wearing one? Seriously, I feel very strongly about the message that wearing a robe portrays. Just because I have a fancy diploma does not make me special! I see too many people equate the robe with some kind of "special" power! I am not a super Christian, I have the same struggles that every other Christian has. We are in the same boat!

Anyway, I quit my rant against robes this way--if being "all things to all people" means that I must sometime go against my theological standards (against wearing a robe) so be it. I don't like it, and I probably never will, but I do want to be the Pastor that my congregation expects.

If you have a good theological reason for wearing a robe, I loved to hear it. Let it not be said I am not willing to listen!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rain and Weeds

Well, we have had plenty of rain here in Stillwater for the last few weeks and the weeds are sure loving it! My garden is beginning to look like a jungle! I wish my vegetable plants grew half as fast as the weeds. It seems the more weeds I pull out of the garden, the more room there is for even more weeds.

Our lives are like that. Weeds come into our lives much easier than the fruit of the Spirit. If we truly want to see the fruit grow, we must not just take care of the weeds, but we must cultivate the fruit as well. Just as my tomato plants need fertilizer, pest control, and a way to keep the deer from eating them, so our Christan walk needs Bible study, prayer, and putting what we learn into practice in order for our fruit to grow.

Let us determine to spend as much time working on our spiritual fruit as we do our physical garden this year!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Well, this morning I got to the office just before the latest round of thunderstorms rolled in. I am glad that Sig (Rachel's dog) is in Princeton since he is very afraid of storms! As I write this, I am wondering whether or not I will finish before th power goes out (it often does here).

I reminds me of how many people live their lives. When the storms of life come, they try to hide from them (like Sig) or they let the "power" go out in their lives. Storms come to every life and how we handle them says as much about how we look at God as they do about us. If we are afraid of the storms of life we are very much like the disciples as they were rowing their boat across the Sea of Galilee. They were afraid because they felt that Jesus didn't care (after all he was sleeping!) If you remember the story, the disciples woke Jesus in their fear. His response? "Where is your faith?"

So, I ask you the same question today. In the storms of life, "Where is your faith?" Jesus is able to calm the storm if you simply trust Him. Are you willing?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Married 62 Years and Still Having Fun!

If this video doesn't make you smile, nothing will! Isn't it wonderful for a couple to still have fun together after so many years of marriage!

I think that every couple needs to learn from this couple. No, you don't need to run out and take piano lessons (unless you just want to), but you do need to do things together. watch a movie. Go for ice cream. Laugh. Have fun.

Amy and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage in July. She has always been and will always be my best friend. I look forward to all the things we do together and miss being able to do them when we are apart. Never take your spouse for granted. Love them and play with them often!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Amazing Grace

This video is about 9 minutes long, but well worth watching!

God's grace IS amazing. It changed the heart of a slave ship captain into the author of this great hymn. It can still do amazing things today. what are you willing to let the Lord do through you?