Friday, August 31, 2012

This Sunday – “The Next Generation”

Sunday’s message is the conclusion of the Elijah series and is entitled, “The Next Generation.”  We’ll be looking at the story of when Elijah passed his prophets mantle to Elisha, his successor.

The emphasis of the message will be on the importance of the older generation co-mingling with the younger generation so that their accumulated wisdom may be passed along.  Both generations are needed in the church and everyone benefits when the two mingle.

Inter-generational ministry is very important in a church family.  Instead of continually segregating people by age, churches become healthier, families stronger, and greater kingdom advancement is accomplished when the generations live, work, worship, and do ministry “together.”

”Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, and Your might to all who are to come” (Psalms 71:18).

I will speak frankly about the challenges of raising children; influencing them properly; teaching the next generation and making room for young leaders to serve in church.  I might even talk about succession planning – my own, that is.

We’re going to learn some stuff, be inspired, encouraged, and hopefully have a new perspective on the awesome God we serve.

Get the whole family in service this weekend.  You’ll be glad you did. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Planned Abandonment Makes the Future Possible

When programs have run their course or become ineffective, they need to be eliminated in favor of an alternative.  When money is tight, unnecessary expenses have to be cut and the budget slashed.  This is called planned abandonment

Cutting costs and eliminating ineffective programs has the same positive effect on our future as tilling the soil has for next years crop. It makes the future possible. It sets the stage for new seeds to grow without the old roots choking them out. Without this commitment we will never have enough money and energy to create the future.

The difficulty with cutting costs and scaling back, however, is that every program has its champions. Even after rigor mortis has set in, someone will champion the cause. Usually these champions are the people who invested time and energy into making the program successful in the first place, or a tiny remnant who believe that if it “helps just one person” it’s worth it whatever it costs.

But we do not have that luxury.  Resources are not inexhaustible, they run out.  Therefore, we have to give top priority to the ministries or methods where the harvest and return on investment is the greatest.  We want more cluck for our buck.  That means we have to make tough decisions about what stays and what goes.  We have to stay on budget and live within our means.  And we cannot allow emotional pleas to sway us otherwise.

If we give-in to everyone who pleads for heroic measures to save their favorite area, it won’t be long until we end up in a death spiral, so top-heavy in busyness and operational expenses that we don’t have enough money or energy for ‘tomorrow.’  It reminds me of the band continuing to play music on the deck of the Titanic even as the ship was sinking.

That’s why I will ask, “Why are we doing this?” If there is no good reason, we will abandon it. Or, “Show me the results.” If there is not enough measurable data to demonstrate its effectiveness, we will discontinue the activity in favor of something else.  When a boat is riding too low in the water, you have to lighten the load by throwing some of the cargo overboard.  Only then does the threat of going under lessen. 

We need to understand the importance of planned abandonment.  Most people see it as heartless, but it’s not.  It’s about good stewardship and making room for the future.

Care verses Limited Resources

From time to time we will receive requests for our church to donate to certain causes, to support other non-profit organizations, to pay for someone’s power bill, to support a foreign missionary, to fund a new ministry, or to take up a special offering for a community drive.  The only problem with so many requests is that PCC has a limited amount of resources (both financial and manpower) to offer.  Therefore 'our'  agenda receives first priority in the decision procress.  In other words, we fund the ministires that we have deemed essential to our mission before anything else is even considered.

You just don’t care” some might object. 

It’s not that we don’t care.  It’s just that there is a limit to how many times we can say yes.  We take our financial commitments very seriously.  We make no  spur of the moment decisions, no matter how compelling they are.  Nor do we allow an emotional response to drive our funding decisions.  Every need is legitimate, but there are not enough resources for every need.

That’s why we will always ensure that PCC is able to support itself before we support another non-profit organization.  We will pay our own utility bill before we pay someone else’s.  We will not siphon money away from our essential ministries to fund another project.  And we will spend money on local missions before foreign ones.

How we define local missions:  Reaching People for Christ 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunday Mind Dump - August 26

Great day.  Lot’s of energy in the room.  People were fully engaged.  I’m amazed at how much people at PCC really seem to enjoy each others company and friendship.

Attendance was up too.  It has been up for the last two weeks, probably due to summer’s end and school starting.  Glad to see it.

Really enjoyed seeing Macy S. sing on stage today.  She was little girl who took Renae’s microphone.  :-)

Today’s message was on Jezebel’s grisly end.  I could see people leaning forward as I was telling the story. 

There is a reason why most of the Bible is written in narrative form – because stories are memorable and full of application.

For instance, you may not be able to articulate what the doctrines of sanctification, justification, or eschatology are, but you’ll remember this story for the rest of your life.  And you’ll always remember what happens to people who do such things.  That’s the value of stories.

Admittedly, I feel some apprehension when I know I’m going to be sharing a strong message, or one that has the potential of being unappealing.  Yet I also know that God’s people really want to hear what the Bible actually says.  They hunger for His Word, not my presuppositions or some soft under-bellied mish-mash that is not nutritional.  They want something to chew on.

It’s important that we embrace the God that is actually described in scripture.

The best line in the message was:  A coat of fresh paint helps preserve old wood.  It was hilarious.  If you were there, you know what it means.

Looks like Hurricane Isaac is taking a westerly course towards Louisiana.  We will still get wind and rain conditions here.  Then again, anything could happen.

Jim Cantore – the weather man – is in New Orleans.  I guess we are safe for the moment.

I’m buying two implements for my tractor – a middle buster and a row builder – that are used for gardening.  They will save me a lot of backbreaking hand work.  I will plant a fall garden in the month of September – collards, turnips, kale, mustard, and garlic.  Can’t wait.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Six

1.  THIS SUNDAY/TOMORROW (August 26th).  The message title is, “When God Brings Justice” (Part 3), and we will see Jezebel’s grisly end.  And yes, there are timely lessons for us to learn from her life and demise that are very applicable to us today.  You’ll want to be there for sure.

2.  Assuming that tropical storm/hurricane Isaac doesn’t cause power outages all week, NEXT SUNDAY (September 2nd) will be the final message in the current series.  We’ll see Elijah taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, and why.

3.  THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY (September 9th) we will be receiving communion.  I always love communion services at PCC because I experience God in the sacrament.  I’m never the same.

4. TODAY (Saturday) - Renae and I spent the day at the beach today.  It was a much needed break from the routine.  Took a bike ride.  Then went to Ft. Pickens and hiked out to a secluded area on the beach (backpacks and all).  Afterwards, we had lunch on the balcony at Hemmingway’s.  Very nice day.

5.  BLOGGING – I’ve been blogging since February of 2008 – almost five years.  I have posted almost 2000 entries during that time.  I average about 200 visits/hits a day, including visits from foreign countries.  Just so you know, I don’t anticipate slowing down any time soon.  I’m feeling the urge to keep writing.  My blog will continue to include personal stuff, information about the church I pastor, and, most importantly, matters of discipleship.

6.  NEW CHAPTER – I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter of PCC too.  Both are imminent.

Internet Problems

My internet is giving me problems because the modem is failing.  Medicacom can't come out until Tuesday.... which is hurricane day.  Oh joy.

Guess I'll limp my way through a Sunday Mind Dump tomorrow evening.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and Overzealous Faith

It's funny to me how the emphasis of preaching and teaching swings back and forth from one focus to another, then back this way, then back that way, etc.  We’ve gone from the goofiness of the health and wealth gospel and the felt needs gospel to the morbidity of a poverty gospel.  Instead of “God wants to bless you with prosperity”, the new message is “God wants you to suffer.”  It's an overreaction by some to correct the weak preaching of others.  The pendulum is swinging from easy believism to raising man-made standards and thinning the herd.  Both extremes lack Biblical balance. 

I’ve noticed that a lot of good people who love the Lord, love the Bible, and mean well, are confusing our call to accept suffering (should it come our way) to choosing suffering as evidence of true spirituality.  This has spawned a new form of legalism too.  Instead of being asked “What’s in your refrigerator?” as in times past, the new watch-dogs in the church are now asking, “What’s in your driveway, and how big is your house?”

In some ways this is a return to the dysfunctional American gospel of the 1940s and 1950s.  Back then it was assumed that anyone serious about their faith would head out to the foreign mission field (unless God gave them a special exemption).  And those on the mission field were told that “putting God first” meant shipping their children off to a boarding school to be raised by strangers.  This was the gold standard for everyone to strive for.

Instead of a Jesus who offered rest, a lighter load, and an easy yoke to bear for the downtrodden, Jesus was portrayed as demanding it all, accepting only the most committed, and delighting in snuffing out spiritually bruised reeds and smoldering wicks.

Even as laste as the 1980s I can distinctly remember resisting altar calls in which evangelists proclaimed God was calling "x number of people in the room" to the foreign mission field.  I ended up believing Jesus would take everything from me, smash it all, and then send me to a place I least wanted to go – like Africa.  My resistance to these appeals made me feel like I lacked proper zeal for the Lord, resulting in a lot of self condemnation.

I'm glad I finally figured it out:  Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

If you listen closely enough you will hear traces of this overzealous emphasis again.  Instead of buying in to that message, embrace this one: 

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you restTake MY YOKE upon you, and LEARN OF ME; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

You can read a related article here:  Is Being Average a Sin?  (Spirituality is Not the Same for Everyone).  It's a real eye-opener. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Random Thoughts and Personal 411

Looks like it’s time for me to purchase a new vehicle.  My 1998 Tahoe has 215,000 miles on it and now I’m experiencing deep engine trouble.  The mechanic shop I use, (Gaines, in Pace, and highly trusted) have kept my truck running for years, and now they tell me that I need a new motor.  Looks like I have a burned up piston on the #8 cylinder.  The cost would be about $5000, which is too much for an automobile that is fifteen years old.

It’s skipping, losing power, and sucking gas like a vacuum cleaner.  I’m getting about 7-8 miles per gallon right now.  Time to “put her down.” 

When I say I will be buying a new truck, what I mean is a new “used” one.  I’ll be looking for a 2007-2008 Tahoe.  Any leads would be appreciated.

The teenagers of PCC are at summer camp this week.  I’m going to visit them on Wednesday and will teaching a breakaway session after the evening meal.  Really looking forward to it.

Last Sunday’s message was “Bummed Out & Ready to Quit.”  Funny how poignant that thought became to me on Monday morning. 

Last Saturday I tilled my garden completely under.  Nothing is left.  Everything I planted back in March-April has ran its course, so it was time. 

I had about two trailer loads of oak leaves that I turned in as organic matter.  The ground looks good all fluffed up and loose.  In a few weeks I will begin planting again for a fall harvest.  Then I’ll be planting cool weather plants such as collards, turnips, and rutabagas for winter harvesting.  I’ll also be trying garlic and onion.     

I have enjoyed this new hobby of gardening about as much as I have enjoyed anything in a very long time.  It’s a lot of hard work and I’m sure I’ll get tired of it eventually, but for now I’m really motivated.  There’s something very satisfying about planting seed, working the ground, investing sweat equity, and then eating the food we harvest.  It has an earthy feel and makes me feel connected to the ground.  There’s also a good feeling that comes from being (somewhat) self-sufficient and not so dependent upon Wal-Mart.

I came home Saturday with a half bushel of banana peppers and bell peppers (red and green) mixed together.  It was very exciting.     

Between the garden and all the fish we’ve caught this summer, I’m feeling pretty good about ‘living off the land’.  Now to buy some chickens.

Country Boy Can Survive.

I’m just about through with Facebook.  Just took another look and was reminded why.

Dear Men, if Clint Eastwood does not take pictures of himself standing in front of a mirror while holding his smart phone, then neither should we.  And please, don’t’ pucker your lips.

I’ll say it again:  There’s nothing more exciting than watching time-delayed coverage of water polo at the Olympic Games on NBC  :-)

Dear NBC, I just watched a rover land on the planet Mars as it happened.

Did Michael Phelps win all those gold medals by himself, or did the government jump in the pool and bail him out?

I saw a commercial on the “Today” program with NBC promoting a gold-medal winner of a race that has not happened yet.  I surrender.

Watching the media explain how the rising unemployment rate of 8.3% is a good thing makes me think we should elect a new media this November.

I hear that Penn State fans are sending death threats to a running back for transferring to another school.  That kind of explains what has happened to Penn State – doesn’t it?

President Obama is richer than most of us.  Mitt Romney is richer than Obama.  This November, pick your poison.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yes, That’s a Beam in My Eye, Thank You

Jesus used exaggerations and humor to get his point across.  One of his most well-known is the story of the beam and speck.  This illustration is found in Matthew 7:3-5
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’ Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? ‘You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’ (Matthew 7:3-5).

We’ve all been that person at one time or another – judging others while ignoring our own blind spots.  It’s so easy to see the faults of others while ignoring my own.  Yet, Jesus’ word-picture is forceful and remnds us of one clear truth - "Yes, I am that person."

On the other hand, there are those who never see themselves with a beam-in-the-eye problem.  They are dangerous and often used by Satan to spread confusion and disharmony wherever they go – even within the church.

I thought of three types of behavior that are most common of people who have a beam in their own eye:

1.  The Inspector.  These are the ones who are happy to do a “fruit inspection on you and give you a detailed analysis of where you are wrong.  This is sometimes done under the guise of helping you towards spiritual maturity.

2.  The Lecturer.  These are the ones that will use every shortcoming you have as a pretext for a lecture.

3.  The Manager.  These are the ones who find your problem and give you detailed instructions on how to fix your problem.

How to Fix the Real Problem

The way to fix this beam-in-the-eye judgmental attitude is to ask forgiveness from the one whose speck we tried to remove.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23 that if we are in a worship service and remember that someone has something against us, we should stop everything, leave our gift on the altar, and first seek reconciliation.  Afterwards, we are free to return and worship.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage and the Episcopalian Church

Christianity has operated within the boundaries established by Scripture since its beginning.  While different groups may argue over some of the lesser points, there are core beliefs that all Christian groups share in common; one of those being the institution of marriage.

Marriage is an institution established by God Himself to join one man with one woman.  It is the very foundation upon which society is built.  Of the world’s three greatest institutions – the home, the Church, and the state – the home is the oldest and the most sacred.  This was established in creation, Genesis chapters 1 and 2.

You will notice that God established marriage before the fall of man, which was before Adam and Eve sinned.  The fact that we tarnish marriage through divorce, infidelity, affairs, or co-habitation does not reduce the importance that God places upon His original design.  Nor does our tendency to not do marriage well provide us with just cause for the redefinition of it.  Same-sex marriage included.

Now, if you don’t’ want to submit to the teaching of the Bible, that is your choice and no one is forcing you to.  You are free to choose whatever lifestyle or religion you choose.  But if you choose to identify with Christianity, you do NOT have the freedom to pick and choose which Scriptural commands to obey.  While none of us keeps the commands of God perfectlly, we should, however, at least have the desire to keep them and should be striving towards obedience to them.  All of them. 

On the other hand, if you do not want to submit to the clear demands of Scripture, then why claim to be a Christian?  Feel free to call yourself whatever you want, but it will not be Christianity.

Take for example the Episcopalian church.  This organization has embraced homosexuality as a God-approved lifestyle, ordains gay ministers, and endorses same sex-marriages as a redefinition of the family.  All this is defiance to the Bible. 

I am certain I do not understand the intensity of difficulty that same sex attraction must present to those affected by it.  However, I do know that it is never easy to be told that what you want is contrary to what God wants for you.  I know this because I have plenty of other sinful strongholds of my own.  The carnal nature is always in rebellion to God. 

Nevertheless we are called by Scripture to fight against our sinful nature and to submit to God.  Sexuality is at our core and all tendencies associated with sex are hard to overcome.  Almost everyone, including straight people (heterosexuals), experience sexual tendencies that are sinful.  Yet, the difficulty does not relieve us of the responsibility to pursue the right path.

So, Episcopalians and other (Christian) groups that have already compromised God’s Word, or are soon to do so, please understand that by fighting against traditional marriage you are fighting against the very Christ you claim to serve.  It doesn’t wash.  It is at this very point that your pursuit ceases to be Christian.  We would all be better served it you called yourself something else.

God is not fooled.  The church is not fooled.  And neither is society fooled.  Only you are.  The manipulation you do to Scripture can be best compared to a bad comb-over.  Only the bald guy is fooled into thinking it looks good.