This is a little blast to the not to distant past. This was our first game of checkers, during our first week alone in Spain. As you can see, the competitive juices and "creative measures" are flowing, none of which were taught to her.
On a side note, I won this game!!
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
#10 I Stopped Comparing Myself To Others
#9 I Stopped Worrying About Who Is Absent
#8 I Stopped Measuring Myself By Singular Activities
#7 I Stopped Waiting For Something To Happen To Me
#6 I Stopped Thinking That I Could Mine Every Truth From Every Scripture Every Time
#5 I Stopped Putting Presentation And Program Over People
#4 I Stopped Promoting Myself And My Virtues
#3 I Stopped Letting Others Dictate My Load
#2 I Stopped Listening To Exclusive Groups
And now, for number 1...
I Stopped Promising Things I Wasn't Sure I Could Deliver!
Ministry often moves at the speed of light, especially on Sundays! Ministering at the Packinghouse presented the tremendous challenge of mass humanity. Three services on Sunday morning with over 2,500 people coming through the doors, each a loving member deserving of pastoral attention and the warmth of friendship. On my end, I wanted to connect and meet with many more than I ever had the time to fulfill. It was overwhelming, and I was just one of the Youth Pastors! I can't begin to imagine Pastor Ed's responsibility.
As I began to be noticed by the congregation as the worship leader, the phenomenon increased exponentially. I found myself promising and committing myself to things left and right. I walked down one aisle and heard myself say, "I'll be praying about that" or "Let's do a lunch this week." I wanted to get connected and I wanted to honor my word, but I found that my word was often compromised by my own impetuous desire to be accessible. This really bothered me after awhile. I started feeling like a real hypocrite! I remember seeing people who I promised to pray for, that thanked me for praying for them, while I had completely forgotten about their needs and neglected to pray for them at all! Other people would call me in the middle of the week and say, "Hey, are we still on for lunch today?" only to hear me squirm in uncomfortability, looking for the most appropriate way to apologize.
I decided that this was going to stop! My word was going to be my bond and I was going to do all that I could to say what I meant. I determined that I would speak slower and resolve requests immediately or as quickly after the service as possible. People asked if I would pray for them. Instead of saying, "I'll be praying for you," I started saying, "Let's pray right now!" Others asked about doing lunch, and I would either walk them up to the office with me or I would ask them to confirm with me by phone the next day when I was near my calendar.
What I found out was that I was completely freed to minister and I was completely freed from the guilt that came from saying the right thing, and not following up on it. But what surprised me more was that when I prayed for anyone right away, the impression was much stronger and I found that I was much more inclined to pray during the rest of the week. I found that I was asking people how things were going and they were the ones who had forgotten that they asked me to pray! My day planner started to get some use and I rarely missed an appointment.
More than anything, I stopped feeling guilty and started enjoying ministry more. Now, this being said, let me say that you will never "bat a thousand!" I never do, but if you make this a philosophy, you'll bat better each year, be more effective for the Lord and be more enthusiastic about the ministry that He has placed you as steward.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Sunday, December 09, 2007
I heard a Pastor say recently that this life was the hardest thing that the believer will ever have to face, while it is simultaneously the best thing the non-believer will ever get to experience. This last week has been one emotional experience after another, going up and down in ways that truly surprise me. For example, Thursday I was on the phone with a dear brother whose wife has decided to leave their marriage. I have been talking with him for a few weeks now, and thankfully, the Lord has steadied his heart, but it's just heartbreaking and maddening for me to have to counsel yet another person in this condition, where one side of a marital union has decided to take the coward's way out! No complaints mind you, but it's so difficult for me to watch a marriage forsaken.
Friday afternoon continued the onslaught, as another dear sister called me and told me of a serious health problem that had just shown itself in her husband. These are people who I have known and loved since their kids were my Junior Highers years ago. We've done some life together, and my prayers are with them.
Then Friday night, we had our staff/board Christmas party, which was an absolute blast! God knew that I needed it! We have the coolest staff and board ever and the party was a great time. It was an added bonus that Lela and I were both affirmed by a few members of the board, who thanked the Lord for us, which was exceptionally touching to us. It ended with the customary games that have become staples for these events, Catch Phrase and Guesstures. And as usual, the men DOMINATED and walked away victorious. I walked away, feeling so blessed to be a part of this church and this leadership group.
That high didn't last that long. Not even 24 hours later, I got a call from Pastor Chris informing me that one of our board advisors and long-time pillars of the Church, Arie Van Ryn, had been killed in Mexico in an auto accident. Immediately, my heart sank and I could feel my face lose all sense of joy. I was speechless and saddened by the loss of this wonderful man, who was a Grandfather at Kingsfield to those of us on staff, and a Father to many of the men that make up the backbone of our church today. I knew that Sunday would be hard.
And it was harder than I anticipated. Usually, there is a buzz in the air and an excitement as people come in. Not today. There were hugs and tears and sadness. It progressively got harder as I looked at the faces of the men, most who Arie had directly helped or blessed in some tangible way. Then to watch Pastor Chris momentarily lose composure as he informed the entire body made it very heavy to bear. I stood in the back, with my arm around one brother and my hand extended to another, shedding my own tears.
For a man that I have only known for 9 months, he sure had an impact on me in that moment. For one, I can remember every encounter I had with him, every one being an encouragement. I remember the first day I met Arie. I was candidating for the Associate Pastor position and was meeting him and the rest of the board for lunch. He looked at me and said, "I am glad that you don't have blonde hair and blue eyes!" I thought from that moment that this was my kind of guy!
I wish I would have had the time to have known Arie better, but I am thankful for the time I had.
Then, I came home and my youngest daughter Elizabeth was all dressed up in her new princess dress, waiting for her birthday party to begin. Her eyes were completely unaware of any sadness that could have been happening around her. She looked wide-eyed and eagerly anticipated the festivities. Her life is just beginning as she rounds the 3rd year of her life. Her smile and infectious personality remind me that sorrow must be mingled with joy in this life. I would enjoy the rest of the day, being around my family, watching Lizzy open yet another present, thanking God for every second that I had.
As the days go by, I am sure that my mind and heart will return to the normal fast pace, but these last few days have made me slow down again, and thank God for a wonderful wife, a great church with a huge upside, and a fantastic, godly, family.
I hope that you can do the same this week.
Blessings...To Our Friends,
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Before I begin this little diddy, I feel compelled to set the table. Virtually all I have known in my Christian experience is Calvary Chapel styled churches. I began attending Calvary Chapel of Redlands back when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I went to, and graduated from, Calvary Chapel Of Redlands' Junior High and High School...barely, but graduated nonetheless. Then, I interned at Calvary Chapel of Redlands, right before I went to the Calvary Chapel Bible College. Later, I participated in a Calvary Chapel Church plant in Jerez De La Frontera. So, I say all this to say that I "get" C.C. and I owe and am thankful both to my Pastor Ed Rea, and to Pastor Chuck Smith, who I have greatly benefitted from.
But there was a time when I felt like that was all I could listen to. It had to be Calvary Chapel or endorsed by Calvary Chapel. It's all I felt safe with! I would overhear people talk about so-and-so Pastor from another denomination, and inevitably the "oh, well I heard him say this about this" comment that confirmed that this Pastor could not be trusted! Then, I would hear people talk about such and such Pastor, who was quite celebrated, but then the whisper that he was a "somethingist who believed in an alternate ending to the Bible!"
I am sure that nobody intended this to inspire fear or to intone that these men did not love Jesus Christ. I'm pretty sure that nobody wanted me to snub my nose against these other men because they believed differently than I did in the "Non-Essentials," but that's what began to happen. (By Non-Essentials I am referring to worship style, eschatological belief, teaching style, etc.)
But then something happened. I was listening to my 4 Millionth study on Acts chapter 2, from the 4 Millionth Calvary Chapel Pastor, who was speaking about the exact same thing as the last guy on the radio, even using the same exact illustrations, pointing out the same exact Greek word! I just needed something fresh and different. This opened a huge door for me. I thought, I am going to take a chance. I started listening to another Pastor Chuck...Chuck Swindoll! His messages were exceptionally well crafted and practical in nature. His insights were deep and challenging, something I craved. His love for the Word was obvious and I appreciated his experience. In fact, I want to say that it was Swindoll that turned me on to Charles Spurgeon, whose sermon encyclopedia is one of my most treasured collections.
Then, I took a listen to Pastor Alistair Begg. Every time I listened, I was challenged, not just as a Pastor, but in my vocabulary! His method is completely different, but it inspires me just the same and he loves Jesus too! I would recommend his work on expository preaching to anyone
Throw in R.C. Sproul, Pastor John Piper, Pastor Jack Hayford, Pastor David Jeremiah, Pastor John Macarthur and Pastor Tim Keller and you have some of my favorite teachers in the world! Add to these the wonderful Calvary Chapel teachers who I continue to benefit from: Pastor Jack Abeleen, Pastor Damian Kyle, Pastor James MacDonald, Pastor David Guzik Pastor John Duncan and Pastor Chuck Wooley. These men have all enriched my love for the Word of God but they also taught me something else: I will never agree with anyone all of the time!
But is that the point? Is there anyone infallible, beside the writers of scripture? Is there anyone whose authority exceeds Christ? No, a thousand times no! "Chew on the chicken and spit out the bones!" Each of these men have said something that I have not agreed with. SO WHAT! Do I stop listening and attempting to understand? I pray that would never be the case.
What am I endorsing here? Am I saying to throw aside all discernment and listen to everyone without prejudice? Aren't there some people that I should be aware of who are espousing dangerous belief systems, calling themselves Christian, yet propogating a non-Christian position? The answer is no first, because the answer is yes to the second question! There are things to be careful of, from even the best of men. The scripture tells us to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing, and I am wary of any system of "theology" that would by it's own definition of "spirituality," exclude Christ Himself from being a Christian!
My point here is not to throw all caution to the wind, but it is to beware that fear which would easily label another brother and thus miss out on what God might have to say through them to you! Until someone crosses the line and says something directly against the scriptures, specifically the non-essentials such as the atonement, the Trinity, the salvation of man by grace, through faith alone or the deity of Christ, then that person might have something of value to say.
I hope that as you minister, you might find the freedom to enjoy the various flavors of God's people that have been gifted in wonderful ways for particular congregations, and whose experiences and studies are intended of the Lord, to enrich, not enrage us!
Blessings...To Our Friends,