Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Weekend Comes First

It’s the economy, stupid!  James Carville

When Bill Clinton ran for the presidency in 1992, scoring an upset victory over incumbent George Bush Sr., his political strategist James Carville (the man pictured) made it very clear what their overarching strategy would be.  Hanging in every office was a single sign for everyone to see:  It’s the economy, stupid.

Any time someone came to James Carville saying “the polls say this or the polls say that”, or “the new hot issue is this or that,” he would point to the sign reminding them what it said.  By doing so, he kept his team on mission.  And that was the issue of the election.  It determined who won and who lost.  Thanks to Carville, Clinton focused relentlessly on the economy.  Bush didn’t.  Clinton won.

About eighteen months ago I gave a talk to our church leaders with this very idea in mind – being singularly focused on what most important.    Because mission-drift has a tendency to set in over time, and because vision leaks, I think it’s time for a refresher.

For us, it’s about the weekend.  It all begins right there.  It’s the main thing.  It’s the main event.  I'm not talking about theology here, the centrality of the Word, or the preeminence of Jesus Christ.  Those are settled issues.  I'm talking about the dynamics of ministry and which ones get priority.  We have decided that Sunday is the one day out of the week that we will devote most of our time, effort, energy, and resources into.  I will go to great lengths protecting the weekend service and we have rules around here to ensure that nothing ever competes with them.

Here’s why the weekend services are so important:

1.  The Sunday services are the LARGEST POINT OF ENTRY for people into our church.  More people attend on Sunday morning than any other time of the week.  This includes guests, regular attenders, and members.  This is where we have our largest gathering and opportunity for largest impact.  And just by virtue of its sheer size, more attention needs to be given to this event than anything else.  We have to make our biggest investment in the weekend services (in time, effort, energy, money, manpower, and other resources).

It simply doesn’t make much sense to divert the majority of our resources to other events (in the church) that are only serving a small minority.  Nor does it make much sense to exhaust ourselves in other efforts when the weekend services are the biggest event on the calendar.

We have made this mistake enough in the past.  When we first started PCC, we had people who wanted to start a church wide women’s ministry and a church wide men’s ministry.  Why?  Because other churches had them.  After a year or two, we realized that key leaders were being taken away from the weekend services, financial resources were being siphoned away, and we suffered for it - all for a small minority of our people.

Obviously, that doesn’t make much sense.

For a while we experimented with a Wednesday night service calling it “First Wednesday.”  We quickly discovered that it took about as much effort and planning to pull off as a Sunday service, but only about 85-to-100 people would show up for it.  So we canned that effort and it was liberating to do so.

The biggest mistake that I made in the history of our church occurred right after we moved into this building.  Everyone was excited about the building and wanted to launch new ministries.  Every time I turned around people were coming to me and asking, “Can I do this or do that?  Can I start this or start that?  Since I was totally overwhelmed with a barrage of requests, not to mention being spread too thin by a growing church, and because I didn’t have a good reason to say no, I simply said yes.

The next thing I knew we had ministries popping up all over the place.  The building was being used almost every night of the week and we didn't have the money to pay for it all.  It became a drain on our finances and we could barely pay our bills.  Then there were turf wars and building use conflicts.  And volunteers started suffering burnout. 

I woke up one day and didn't even recognize the ministry that I had allowed to be created.  We were a federation of sub-ministries with each one operating independently of our main misison and causing a significant drain on the whole.  These ministries were competing systems and we suffered for it.  Volunteers and key leaders were dissipating themselves so much during the week that when they came to church on Sunday they were tired, irritable, short tempered, or showed up late.  Some even skipped Sunday altogether!  I took corrective action and it was very, very painful. 

Since the weekend services are the main port of entry this has got to be our top priority.

2.  The Sunday services GENERATE OUR FINANCIAL RESOURCES.  This may come as a surprise, but it actually takes money to do ministry.  It takes super-sized cash the finance the ministry.  It takes money to build buildings, pay the power bill, purchase equipment and curriculum, and pay for services, etc.  And guess what?  The Sunday service is the very time and place where people bring their tithes and offerings to the church.  Typically, they do not give any other time of the week.

HERE’S THE POINT:  Since most people come to church on Sunday morning… since Sunday morning is the largest point-of-entry into our church…. and if this one day generates most of our financial resources…. then is makes good sense to do the very best we can on this day of the week.

 This is the day that pays the bills and enables us to fund our budget.  Plain and simple.  So it makes good sense, it makes good business sense, and it makes good gospel sense to put together the very best God-honoring, people-inspiring, believer-edifying church service that we can possibly put together.  From the parking lot, to the door greeters, hospitality, building cleanliness, children's ministry, nursery, music, sermon, ushers, to guest services, all of it, we absolutely must put our best effort here.

Right about now somebody is probably saying, “What about discipleship?  What about other important areas of the church?  Glad you asked.  This leads me to the next point…..

3.  AS THE WEEKEND GOES, so goes THE REST OF THE CHURCH.  If the weekend is not working well, then nothing else in the church is going to work well either. 

Look at it this way:   If people are not getting saved in the Sunday services, then you are not going to have anyone to disciple;  if people are not connecting with the weekend services, then there won’t be anybody to sign up for small groups or Bible classes; if money is not raised on Sunday, ministires don't get funded; and if the weekends are weak, all the others ministries will be weak too. 

If we are not firing on all eight cylinders in the weekend services, then everything else is going to fall short of its potential.  I mean, don’t even talk to me about a sports ministry, singles ministry, Christian education, or anything else if the weekend is not working well.  On the other hand, show me a church that has great weekend services and I’ll show you a church that has great ministries throughout the rest of the organization

The weekend services are the feeder to everything else in the church. It is the source that channels people into the other ministries of the church.  By having hundreds of people attending and connecting to the weekend, we have hundreds of people to channel into other varied ministries of the church.  But you’ve got to get the weekend healthy first.

Some people believe they can start sub-ministry out there and that it will help the church grow.  This almost never happens.  Aside from being a drain on resources, is always less effective than reversing the process. It is always MORE EFFECTIVE to use the Sunday services as a feeder into other ministries of the church…. simply because this is the largest pool of people.

We have been down this road at least 50 times before, so I know what I’m talking about.  In fact, the weekend services are so important that all of our paid staff are on duty that day and have responsibilities to make Sunday a great day. 

4.  We NEVER ALLOW anything to COMPETE with Sunday.  We don’t allow our any of our ministries to schedule a retreat that will take people out of the Sunday morning services.

We’ve made that mistake in the past.  I used to have ministry leaders that would take teenagers on camping trips over the weekend or schedule adult retreats to such places as the Walk to Emmaus, or some hole in the wall like Camp Tawanakee listening to Reverend So-and-So.  Each time this happened it took people out of our Sunday services, siphoned resources away, and took key leaders and volunteers away at a time when we needed them the most.

Of course, people are free to do what they want as individuals.  But we cannot allow any of our ministries or ministry leaders to schedule an event on a Sunday if it takes people, leaders, and resources away from the main church services.  We are already competing with things like the beach, sports, and other wordly activites to get people to church, so it’s downright stupid to compete with ourselves by taking them out.  We want our weekend services to be the focus of the weekend, so we don’t allow any ministry leader to schedule golf retreats, ladies retreats, men’s retreats, fishing trips, conferences, concerts, or anything on Sunday.

Even Saturday events are to be used with caution.  If a ministry in our church does some kind of all-day Saturday event, or a late night Saturday event and then half of the people are too tired to show up to church the next day, then that would be unacceptable too.

IN CONCLUSION:  The weekend is where guests experience our church for the first time.  It’s where we have our largest gathering for impact.  So the weekend really matters.  It matters a lot.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hills to Die On

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  (Matthew 13:45-46)

If you were to compare the doctrinal statements of Christian churches in our community, there won’t be too much disparity.  Most protestant churches are pretty close to each other in doctrine, holding fast to the essentials.  If you were to compare them by mission, again, you wouldn’t find too many wavering from evangelism, discipleship, serving, community, and worship.  We all have our cute nomenclature, but we don’t drift too far from these purposes.  The Great Commission is applicable to all of us.

So what separates churches?  The hills they will die on.  Let me share with you some core values of PCC, and me personally, and you’ll see what I mean.

The Bible is True.  Our first value is that we believe the Bible is true and it is the catalyst for change in people’s lives and in the church.  From day one, whenever it comes to what we believe, how we think, how we operate our church, or where we should land on a particular issue, we have one simple value:  go to the Bible, and then go with the Bible.  Over and over again, we’ve been committed to asking, “What does the Bible say?”  Biblical authority governs our lives, this church, and all teaching.

Lost People Matter to God.  Lost people matter to God and therefore they should matter to us.  This value puts us on mission.  It tells us we have a clear cause.  We are to be turned outward, not inward.  As long as there is one person in our community that does not know Jesus Christ, this church has a mandate.  BTW, this was the hill Jesus died on.

Authentic Fellowship.  Another value we hold to is that friendships and meaningful relationships should permeate every aspect of church life and our Christian life.  This value drives me to be a zealous defender of the community and unity of our church family.  When there is conflict or tension, stress or misunderstanding, we’re going to tackle it head-on within the context of love.  We’re not going to let it go underground, much less let it become cancerous and malignant so that it infects the body of Christ.  We are going to pay the high price and hard work of community.

I know we all won’t be equally close to one another; this isn’t about every single person being your best buddy.  In fact, there might even be people you feel a little “allergic” to, but we can still be authentic, loving in our spirits, gracious in our hearts, and fiercely loyal to each other.

A Standard of Excellence.   Another value is that excellence in all we do honors God and inspires people.  That’s a value for two reasons.  The first and most important is because it’s the only way to live a life that honors God.  God deserves our best.  Mediocrity does not honor God, nor does it reflect His character.

But there’s a second reason, one that we should never forget.  Excellence sends a message.  When somebody comes in and see typos in the program, sloppy printing, messy floors, smelly bathrooms, unkempt grounds, poor musical presentations, children’s lessons pulled together at the last minute, or shallows sermons that sound like they were prepared the night before, they make a value judgment: “This God they talk about must not be very important to these people, or they wouldn’t do things this way.” 

So I am passionate about excellence at PCC not only because I want us to honor God with our lives, but also because mediocrity could invalidate everything we try to communicate about Christ.

Let Leaders Lead.  A core value of PCC is that churches should be led by those who have the spiritual gift of leadership.  This is very, very important and I will go to the mat over this one.  This is about structure, government, and leadership.  Not only do we let leaders lead, but we’re also structured in a way that the Bible intimates – not with committees, elections, ballots, and parliamentary procedure – but along the lines of what a church is.

The church is a fellowship, so we structure for unity.  The church is a family, so we organize and manage it like a family.  The church is a body, so we are made up of people with differing gifts, filling different roles.  And the church is a flock, so the church is cared for and led by shepherds.

Financial Stewardship.  Christians are recipients of grace and that grace should be expressed in our giving.  Stinginess is antithetical to Christianity.  Consequently, we are not timid about asking people to give.  Giving and generosity is essential to every Christian’s spiritual growth.

Rather than making a few big asks a couple of times a year (when the church is in crisis mode), we take a moment to talk about stewardship every single Sunday in the worship service.  We connect the offering to the Bible and teach about it briefly and often.  This constant reminder provides more opportunities for the Holy Spirit to move and convict. 

Full Devotion is Normal.  This value is simple yet profound:  full devotion to Jesus Christ and His cause is normal for ever believer.  Not wavering; not double-minded; not lukewarm, not half-hearted or greeting the whole thing with a yawn.

Fully devoted.

Anything less is abnormal. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - September 25, 2011

Still flying high from today’s service.

My observation is that our programming is simply good.  There’s no other way to describe it.  Sure, we have issues that arise from time-to-time that need to be resolved, but our ministry teams consistently perform at a high level of excellence and pull off an exceptional Sunday morning service every week. 

Boy, a LOT of people talked to me after the message.  They really seemed to appreciate the insights from the passage.  I did notice, that those who spoke to me about it, are those who are serious students of the Word.  I like it.

Today’s text (Matthew 20 about the laborers in the Vineyard) is a challenging one.  It’s not very easy to teach from.  I have always wrestled with this passage, not having a good grasp on its meaning.  In fact, I have preached from it only once (about 15 years ago), and even then I didn’t do a very good job.  Today was better.

The stories of Jesus are amazing.  They are so “real life.”

This series has been a home run.

I was sick this morning.  No one knew this, but I was so sick that I didn’t even think I could make it to church.  But the Lord helped me.

NICE NEWS:  Rob Hadding (pastor of Christ Church, formerly named Harmony Ridge Baptist) sent me a note this afternoon telling me that he and his church prayed for us today in their services.  Here it is:

Hey, brother,
Our church prayed for you and your church this morning. May our Lord strengthen the ministry of Pace Community Church, and reach many with the saving message of the Gospel.

I think we should reciprocate by having PCC pray for Christ Church.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  (Psalms 133:1).

HERE’S SOMETHING I’VE BEENTHINKING ABOUT LATELY:  If PCC were to close its doors, what kind of impact would it have upon people?  Would our community even notice or experience a sense of loss?  In other words, are we really making a difference?  How much kingdom impact do we really have?

Our guitarists are growing as musicians.  It was apparent today.

Wade Hall did a good job on vocals today, singing a solo part.  I’ve known him forever, and I can remember him singing “Beulah Land” about 25 years ago like nobody’s business.  It used to give me chill bumps.

Looking forward to the Fall Fest & Chili Cook Off.  This event will take place on the PCC campus the night before Halloween. 

More and more I am coming to accept and understand in the Sovereignty of God.   I can “rest” in this assurance.

My definition of the Sovereignty of God that I shared this morning is this:  God can do what He wants to, when He wants to, why He wants to, how He wants to, as many times as He wants to, and He doesn’t have to explain Himself or ask anyone’s permission to do it.

That definition cuts through all the fat of theological pontification.  It’s something that anyone can understand.  And it’s something I take comfort in.

Here’s what I think.  Men should never wear Capris pants.  It’s an unnatural act against humanity.  Be afraid if you ever see it.  Very afraid.  It’s a sure sign that the world is coming to an end soon.

Friday, September 23, 2011

When Local Pastors Get Along

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  (Psalms 133:1)

One of the greatest joys of a pastor is to have a harmonious relationship and close Christian fellowship with other pastors and churches in his community.  At least, it is for me.  There is a sense of strength that comes to a pastor when he knows that other pastors are truly dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ and are striving to make the community aware of His saving grace.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  Often, there is isolation among pastors, jealously, rivalry, lack of communication, and misunderstanding.  Sometimes we even see other pastors as adversaries and enemies.  This brings division to the work of God and is a big win for Satan.

I have always made an effort to be acquainted with fellow pastors in our community.  Over the course of time I have even become close friends with some; they are friendships I value a great deal.  Recently, I made friends with another.  These relationships are truly iron sharpening iron.  We are co-laborers in the same vineyard – the Lord’s vineyard, not our own – even though our ministry styles are different.

These pastors are my colleagues, not competitors. 

A minister of the gospel has a responsibility to initiate unity among the brethren, not just refrain from negative attitudes and hurtful actions.  Paul urged the church at Ephesus to “…. endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3).

I love pastors.  Here’s why:  On any given Sunday morning across America, more people will attend church services than will attend all major sporting events for an entire year combined!

No, that’s not a typo. I wrote it correctly.

The pastors of all these churches influence a myriad of believers, who are living healthy lives because of their godly example. Often their work is not even acknowledged. Yet this world would be much worse off without them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Collateral Damage

During our Ten Year Hiccup, the thing that traumatized me most was the collateral damage.  Certain innocent sheep were deeply affected by it all.  They were not instigators, but victims.  The turbulence was too much for them and they left their church family over it.  Some even stopped attending church altogether.  That really messed me up.  Fortunately, some of these people have found their way back to the PCC family.  It took some time, but they've returned.  For this I am very grateful.  Unfortunately, others have not.  I hope they do.  This is their home.  This is where they belong.

And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
(Jeremiah 3:14)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Not Rocket Science

How do churches grow?  Not the way you might think.  It’s a common myth that “if you build it, they will come.”  They won’t.  Yes, it worked in Field of Dreams, but it doesn’t happen in the real world of leading a church.

Sometimes we think that’s all there is to building a church.  We believe that if we secure a meeting place, offer Starbucks coffee, play some good music, and then deliver a solid sermon, we will grow.

No, you won’t.

So how you grow a church?

It’s easy.  Really.  It’s not rocket science.  But DOING it takes a lot of effort, energy, and hard work.  Here’s a few basics:

PRAYER.  You can do a great deal in the power of the flesh – a scary amount, in fact – but truly supernatural breakthroughs come only through prayer.  A church grows when its leaders beg God for souls, when teams gather to pray for it to grow, and when members and attenders pray for unchurched people by name.

Church growth and kingdom advancement is a supernatural event.  The Bible’s description of the early church is clear: “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).  Who added?  The Lord.  Not a program, not a great series, not a tool or technique, not a fast-growing suburb, nor the latest hip factor, but the Lord.

That means it’s a prayer thing.

There is no excuse for passivity, nor am I attempting to speak into the various theological positions about just how someone is saved.  I’m simply saying that prayer matters.  Church growth is a supernatural activity, and we should pray like it.

MEMBERS & ATTENDERS INVITE THEIR FRIENDS.  Crawl beneath the hood of any growing church and will find that the number one reason newcomers attend is because they were invited by a friend.  A church attracts newcomers because its members talk about it.  It comes up in their conversations at the movie theater, at work, talking over the backyard fence, or while standing around the water cooler.  In growing churches, this “culture of invitation” is encouraged and affirmed.

RELATIONSHIPS.  Churches need to have some Velcro that allows people to “stick.”  The fancy word is assimilation.  We just called it getting people connected.  Whether it is through a ministry event, volunteerism, a small group, class, seminar, or social event, we want people to build friendships get connect relationally.  Always remember – relationships are the glue that holds a church together.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Important Truths for Church Planters

1.  Church planting is not cool.  It’s not a hobby.  It is brutal.

2.  If you don’t develop ministry teams because you’d rather fly solo, you are foolish.  If you don’t delegate, your church will die.

3.  It takes more than good music and good preaching to get off the launch pad.  People have to get connected to SERVING and/or MAKE FRIENDS.  Always remember:  Relationships are the glue that holds a church together.
4.  It takes money too.  More importantly, it takes someone with courage and conviction to ask for it.  Money doesn’t come in by itself.

5.  NUMBERS:  If you are counting how many cats your church members own, then it’s not about the numbers.  But if you are counting people, salvations, baptisms, volunteers, and healed marriages, then yes, IT IS ABOUT the numbers!

6.  If you start a church without the support of your wife, your church won’t fail.  Instead, you’ll get a divorce…. and then your church will fail.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - September 18, 2011

We had a nice jump in attendance today – with adults, children, and visitors.  There was a nice vibe in the house too.

I really enjoyed the songs.  For the second set we used to a couple of Vineyard songs from the 90s:  No Other and Let Your Glory Fall.  They were very relaxing, vertically focused, and God-honoring.

The sermon was on the Parable of the Talents.  While it’s an old and familiar passage, I think a lot of people were challenged with its insights.  It was a word of encouragement for those who are faithful and a sobering word for those who are unproductive.

A few quotes:

Having little to work with is no excuse for doing nothing at all.

From the least of us to the greatest of us, every one of us is fully obliged to be a faithful steward.

God claims ownership of everything, even to the farthest corner of our lives. 

You can do three things with your life:  You can spend your life (totally dissipate yourself until there is nothing left).  You can waste your life (and have nothing to show for your time on earth).  Or you can invest your life (in the things that really matter).

I met a first-time visitor at church who showed up with a “Check list” in hand.  Within five minutes of meeting him, he questioned me about his “hot button” issues.  Funny thing, I just wrote about this last week (click here).  His two main questions were:  Do the people of this church like ‘deep teaching?’” and “What form of government does this church have?”  I answered his questions.  I don’t think he’ll be back.  (:-)

He expressed no interest in us, only items 1-and-2 on his checklist.

Don’t forget we are having a FALL FEST and CHILI COOKOFF on October 30th, the night before Halloween.  Everyone is invited.  This is a great opportunity for fellowship and to hang out together.  Besides, it’s going to be a blast.

This week at PCC:  Tuesday evening is “Women of Purpose” and “Financial Peace University.  Wednesday evening is “Youth Group” for Middle & High School teens.  Thursday evening is “PCC University” (a total of five-or-six Bible elective classes).  Friday at 10:30 a.m. is LUNCH for the housekeeping volunteers. 

Yesterday afternoon was the 50’s+ Fellowship Group.  They had a picnic together at the park on our church campus.

Dang!  We’re busy.

Here’s a quote I read today:  Another proof of our fallen nature is our uncanny ability to clearly see the faults of everyone except ourselves (Rom.2:1-3).

Dear PAT ROBERTSON, I heard you say on television the other day that it is acceptable for a person do divorce their spouse if they get Alzheimer’s Disease.  Tell me, what part of “in sickness and in health, for better for worse” DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?

After church I went to my sister's house for a family meal together.  Really enjoyed myself.

My Tahoe is in the shop for repairs – fuel injectors – big bucks.  It’s a 1998 (13  years old) with more than 200,000 miles on it.  I’ve gotten my moneys worth out of it, but I think I might have to buy another vehicle after the first of the year.  Not looking forward to that.

I’m having lunch with Rob Hadding, the pastor of Christ Church, on Tuesday of this week.  Pretty excited.

I hope to put my boat in the water soon.  The weather is mild and more comfortable than the blistering sun and 103 degree temperatures of summer.  We have great waterways in this area, perfect for outdoor recreational activities.

If I catch any fish, I’ll post pictures  (:-)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who’s Calling the Shots? A Refresher on the Sovereignty of God

God is good and in control.  That’s a comforting truth we can rest in.  We would be lost without this assurance.  But when you’re hurting – whether it’s you own blood that’s spilled or that of someone you love – and you’re ready to give up, it’s hard to say, “God is in control” because everything seems out of control.

Regardless of what you believe about the sovereignty of God, regardless of what you learned in Bible college or seminary, regardless of how many years you have been serving the Lord, pressure squeezes all kinds of thoughts out of us, distorting truths we once held orthodox, with divine sovereignty being one of the first to blur.

Nevertheless, God is still in control.  Even more, He has the authority to make a situation different.  That’s what Job finally realized as he wrestled with his pain: “I know you can do all things” (42:2).  God Himself asked Abraham, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord” (Gen.18:14).  Jeremiah acknowledged, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you” (32:17, 27).  Jesus said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

Do you believe that?  Do you believe it right now?  Whatever it is that is making you ready to give up, are you convinced that God has the key to the very door that would alter your circumstances?

To believe that – to really know it – changes us.  For starters, it discharges high-voltage fear, the “what ifs” that rob us of peace.  We come to realize that none of these things – people, circumstances, or the demonic forces behind them – holds the key.  God does. 

We intend for things to run smoothly.  Our goal is to go clockwise.  We want the good things in life; health, a happy family, a fulfilling career, and prosperity.  But along comes something or someone and suddenly things go the opposite way – counterclockwise.  And what does God do?  He takes the clockwise and counterclockwise motions of life, presses them together, and makes them display time.  Perfect time.  His time.  Though the gears go in opposite directions, both are used by Him.  We call it Romans 8:28…..

  • And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

If you are ready to give up, don’t.  As long as God has decided to use that thing, that person, that situation, or that circumstance, it will not hinder you.  God might use what you’re facing to tell you to move on, or stay put.  But don’t ever think that He’s telling your to quit.  He’s not.  His timepiece always tells His timing, not yours.  When God opens the door for you, it will stay open.  When God says it’s time to close the door, it stays shut tight and you can’t open it.  He always accomplishes His purposes in you.

Assuming that our difficulties are not the consequences of willful disobedience, there is no way we can be eternally injured in the situation in which we find ourselves.  Sometimes we find an exit door in our trouble, and sometimes we don’t.  But always, we are secure in God.  Eternally secure.  Safe.  Protected.  Beyond irreparable harm.

Our difficult circumstances, rather than being a cause to give up, are in reality a cause for praising Him.  The problems that you and I face, although painful, are themselves tools of a holy, sovereign God.  Nothing can prevent God from being a perfect God to you and me right now, right where we are.  As the eternal Holy One, He’s in control.

In God’s time, you’ll come to see that.  In the meantime, just rest in Him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The 2nd Half

In many ways the first half of your life is a story-line that someone else writes.  It’s a playbook that you don’t always get to make-the-call.  Your life revolves around long hours at work, promotions, taking on extra work, beating the competition, children, mortgage payments, relocations, cash flow, net worth, and family commitments.  It’s a good story, but very little about it is uniquely yours.  You are living a script that other people have written for you, and over the decades you do whatever is required of yourself to make ends meet.

Around midlife – in the forties for most people – you come to realize that you can’t live this way forever.  There is fatigue, success panic, or unrealized dreams, disappointments, burnout, and emotional drain.  Additionally, your body begins to change in a number of ways, none of which you like.  Most alarming, your youthful beauty begins to slip.  Then it dawns on you, in the midst of the maddening pace you have been living for all these decades, you lost contact with yourself. 

I think this is why so many people have mid-life crises and self-destruct.

Conventional wisdom holds that the first half of your life is the most exciting and productive, and that the remaining years represent, first a plateau, and then a gradual downhill slide into retirement and a life of boredom.  But I have come to believe that the second half of my life can my best.

Consider these facts:
  • Most people who are fifty will live another thirty years (if you are forty, you could live another forty)
  • Most of us will likely have a whole second adulthood that our grandparents never had.  Our life expectancy is longer than theirs
  • The additional years we have been given will be marked by good health, vitality, physical activity, love, and the capacity to contribute (back) at a very high level towards worth-while causes
  • The traditional understanding of retirement is no longer relevant to a growing number of men and women today.  They continue working for the purpose of fulfillment, often choose second or third careers, or find non-profit organizations or religious causes to dedicate themselves to, and stay fully engaged in the process of living an active, productive life.

The 2nd half of life is the place where we hope to get off autopilot - you know, that set of routines we perform out of a sense of duty and obligation (mostly for others).  This is the place where you look inside yourself to find the larger story that is encoded there; the story that God wrote for you.  Your privilege is to discover it, script it yourself, and live it out.

Myself, I am unwilling to winter with the old folks in South Florida.  Playing another round of shuffle board is not my thing.  Neither do I want to live at the same maddening pace of my first half.  Knowing that I have another twenty-five years or so to live (God willing) and that I have the means and resources to give back, I want to live them as productively as possible, passionately pursuing the things that mean the most to me.  I want to run my race well and cross the finish line strongly.

I think that's what you're supposed to do in the 2nd half.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - September 11, 2011

Just a good day at PCC.

Still flying high from all the good things happening at our church.

I really liked the new stage design.  It looks good. 

Today was 9/11.  It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years.

I vividly remember what I was doing when I watched the second plane crash into the second tower…. live.

I have mixed emotions about churches making their entire service today about 9/11, because Jesus is supposed to have preeminence in all things.  But we did take a few minutes in today’s service to talk about the events of the day, what a defining moment it was for our country, the horror of it all, and to acknowledge our gratitude for those who defend our liberty.

There will be no peace on earth until the Prince of Peace returns and rules the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:27).  Then we will study war no more (Isaiah 2:4).

Until then, I thank God for our national defense.

I’m loving the fall weather.  I think it’s supposed to warm up a little this week, but at least it won’t be in the upper 90s or over 100.

Yesterday I drove up into the country with my mother to visit relatives.  We had a good time.  It’s very relaxing to be in the country… especially in the morning when the air is cool.  We had a country feast for lunch… all home-grown from their garden. 

There’s something about living a simpler life that appeals to me.

My land-clearing project is finally completed.  Now to get started on planting grass.  This property is beautiful with lots of oak trees.

I’ve got some Muscadine and Scuppernong vines that I want to plant too.  (:-)

I close with two proverbs of wisdom….. 

(1)  A life vest protects you from drowning. A bullet proof vest protects from bullets. A sweater vest protects you from ever getting a date.

(2)  A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth your while.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Getting Older? Get in Shape.

No point in talking about what happens to your body as you get older.  You’re there.  You know what happens.  Been there, done that.

So how do you get in shape at your age?

1.  Turn off the TV. Yes, turn it off.  That insidious box is stealing your life away.  Before you know it, you’ll be in the hospital facing bypass surgery or knee replacement and you’ll be sorry.  Turn that life-sucking, brain-vaporizing machine off.  You may need a week or two to decide.  That’s okay, but make the decision and turn it off.  You’re sitting there getting soft and pudgy, consuming too many calories as you watch another episode of whatever.   Does it mean you’ll never watch TV again?  No.  But it does mean that it gets LAST priority.  Turn it off and get yourself in gear doing something else.  Get up, get outside, and get it moving.

2. Your eating plan should look like this:  BIG breakfast, MEDIUM lunch, SMALL dinner. Drink eight glasses of water throughout the day.  Eat fruit in the morning and vegetable in the afternoon.  Throw away all your sweetened beverages. 

3.  Your exercise plan should look like this: You should walk 1 hour at least four times a week or something equivalent.  Lift weights to maintain muscle mass, a good body shape, and strong bones.  Mix it up.  Do a solid four hours each week (of something) with your heart rate pumping.  Anything less and you won’t get the results you want.

4.  IT BOILS DOWN TO THIS:  Exercise more and eat less.  Forget about all those diet plans out there.  Here’s your plan:  exercise more and eat less.  Do you understand?  Exercise more and eat less.  It’s just that simple.

5.  Your goal should be one pound per week.  If you’re doing it right, figure on losing one pound per week.  This means losing a pound of fat but keeping the muscle.  Right?    Since muscle weight three times heavier than fat, it’s not easy to lose weight.  Remember, you didn’t put your weight on overnight and it won’t come off overnight.  If you want to lost 15 pounds of fat, think 15 weeks.

Now push away from this computer and get started.  It's Saturday, cool outside, and a good day to get active.